This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to give two major speeches in Washington, DC. The first is Monday at the conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The second is on Tuesday before the U.S. Congress.
Tuesday’s speech has been generating headlines, with more than 30 Members of Congress reportedly declaring that they will not attend. But despite the controversy surrounding Netanyahu’s invitation to speak before Congress, the policies of his government are what deserve real scrutiny.
Here are four key questions that Prime Minister Netanyahu should have to answer while he makes the rounds in Washington, DC:
- Why is Israel taking Palestinian land?
Why is Israel undermining Gaza reconstruction?
Why is Israel arresting nonviolent Palestinian protestors?
Why does Israel oppose international accountability?
1. Why is Israel taking Palestinian land?
Hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers now live on Palestinian land occupied by Israel. To make way for these settlements, which are for Jews only, Israeli soldiers have forced countless Palestinians out of their homes and communities, sometimes at gunpoint.
When Palestinian activists oppose these Israeli actions, Israeli military and security forces subject them to jail, violence, and even death. President Obama and the U.S. Congress are helping to perpetuate this human rights crisis by providing roughly $3 billion a year in military aid to Israel.
2. Why is Israel undermining Gaza reconstruction?
It has been six months since the last major conflict between Israel, Hamas, and armed Palestinian groups. The Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza remains devastated after Israel’s 2014 military offensive in the territory. The territory’s 1.8 million civilians currently have little hope of recovering, given Israel’s continued blockade of the Gaza Strip and a simultaneous lack of international aid for reconstruction.
As described in our annual report, Israeli forces “killed more than 1,500 civilians in Gaza, wounded thousands more, and caused huge devastation. During the 50-day conflict, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of indiscriminate rockets and mortar rounds into civilian areas of Israel, killing six civilians, including one child.” According to a U.N. agency, over 500 Palestinian children were also killed.
In Gaza, up to half a million Palestinians were displaced during the fighting. Six months later, UN and other humanitarian aid agencies report that approximately 100,000 Palestinians are still displaced, their Gaza homes damaged or destroyed during Israeli attacks. The aid agencies also report that children in Gaza continue to lack access to quality education, with over 400,000 of them in need of immediate psychosocial support.
3. Why is Israel arresting nonviolent Palestinian protestors?
Palestinian Murad Shtewi is just one of example of many Palestinian men, women, and children who have experienced arrest or imprisonment by Israeli military and security forces for peaceful protests against the Israeli Occupation.
Israeli Military Order 101 essentially bans Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation from peacefully protesting the occupation without the permission of the occupying forces. Yes, you read that right.
Under Israeli Military Order 101, all gatherings of 10 or more people “for a political purpose or for a matter that could be interpreted as political” or even “to discuss such a topic” are illegal in the Occupied Palestinian Territories without the permission of the Israeli military commander in the area.
4. Why does Israel oppose international accountability?
On April 1st of this year, Palestine will join the International Criminal Court (ICC). Netanyahu has been campaigning against a possible ICC investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
If successful, Netanyahu’s campaign would shield not only Israeli officials, but also Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups from investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This would deny both Israeli and Palestinian victims justice.
The ICC currently has the power to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. These ICC powers are limited to crimes committed in the territories of, or by nationals of, the countries that have ratified its statute. The ICC’s jurisdiction may extend beyond the countries that have joined the ICC when the UN Security Council refers a particular situation to the Court for investigation, or when a country that hasn’t yet joined the ICC declares that it accepts the Court’s jurisdiction.
Instead of attempting to block a possible investigation, Israel should follow Palestine’s lead and join the ICC. Both Palestinian and Israeli victims deserve justice and reparations for the crimes committed against them and their families.
The Real Controversy:
Instead of the narrow debate over Netanyahu’s invitation to speak before Congress, U.S. elected officials should be pushing Israel’s prime minister to answer these four questions. Not only is Israel violating the human rights of millions of Palestinians, but if it succeeds in its campaigns, it will achieve the astonishing feat of shielding Palestinian human rights abusers as well.