The line between “appalling” and “crime against humanity”

If there is a line, Israel has crossed it. For the sixth time since fighting in Gaza began, the IDF has dropped ordinance on a UNRWA school where thousands of displaced Palestinian civilians had sought shelter. Today’s attack killed at least 10 people, and Sunday’s total of 71 Palestinians killed brought the Operation Protective Edge’s overall body count to 1822 Palestinians and 67 Israelis killed.

Five times previously Israel has bombed civilian shelters that it knew were civilian shelters, because UNRWA told them so. Each time the IDF claimed that their forces had been fired upon from the vicinity of those shelters. The thing is, even if you assume Hamas is firing on Israeli soldiers from positions near those UN schools/shelters, it’s still a violation of international law to strike at those positions in a way that puts all those civilians at risk. Israel undoubtedly knows this. We know that the IDF is capable of precision strikes, so the idea that they can’t avoid targeting these UNRWA schools rings hollow to say the least, and anyway after five previous “mistakes” it starts to feel like they’re actually targeting these civilian shelters. But even if you assume each one of these strikes has been a tragic mistake, after six of them it becomes clear that the IDF doesn’t really give a shit about preventing any further “mistakes.”

The concept of moral hazard would seem to apply at this point. Whether Israel is directly targeting UNRWA schools or just repeatedly making the same mistake without bothering to correct it is unclear. What is clear is that the fact that Israel has suffered nothing more than some mealy-mouthed condemnations from the US and UN over the five previous times they’ve done this has given them a green light to keep doing it. The State Department says that it’s “appalled” by today’s attack, but if that’s true, then the US has 3 billion ways to show just how appalled it really is. But instead, we’re giving Israel access to American munitions stockpiles so that they don’t run out of stuff to shoot, which suggests that we don’t actually find these attacks appalling at all. In fact, we’re kind of complicit in them.

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