In a striking departure from the Bush Administration, Ambassador Susan E. Rice, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, called for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel in the recent Gaza fighting. While correctly noting such violations by Hamas, Rice noted that there are now credible accounts that need to be investigated. The question is now whether the Administration will apply the same standard to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes that are now clearly identified in the Bush Administration involving an official torture program.
The message still notably pronounced such violations by Hamas while only suggesting investigation into the claims against Israel (while also accusing people of using such allegations to inflame feelings against Israel). Nevertheless, even the suggestion of such an investigation is a departure from the Bush Administration’s refusal to criticize Israel. Here is the relevant part of the statement:
The United States is deeply concerned Mr. President about the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent weeks and the tragic suffering of Palestinian civilians, who require urgent humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. Violations of international humanitarian law have been perpetrated by Hamas through its rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in southern Israel and the use of civilian facilities to provide protection for its terrorist attacks. There have also been numerous allegations made against Israel some of which are deliberately designed to inflame. We expect Israel will meet its international obligations to investigate and we also call upon all members of the international community to refrain from politicizing these important issues.
Notably, these allegations are being advanced by independent media groups like the BBC. Rice is clearly correct that Hamas routinely used human shields and has been using unguided rockets to terrorize Israel. However, there are clearly legitimate questions raised over how Israel responded. I am very sympathetic to the need for a response but obviously these allegations must be investigated and prosecuted.
Of course, unlike the “allegations” against Israel, the Bush torture program has been confirmed by Bush officials. Yet, President Obama and Eric Holder continue to withhold their commitment to investigation and prosecute any war crimes committed by our own country.
For the full story, click here.
For Rice’s statement, click here