Salvo 06.07.2024 10 minutes

Israel’s Bad Month

Israeli Forces Press Farther Into Rafah

The broad condemnation of Israel’s war of necessity delegitimizes the accusers, not Israel.

Editors’ Note

This is the second of two articles on the author’s recent trip to the Middle East. “Unity of Purpose in the Middle East” focused on the common goals shared by most Israelis and Arab governments in the Gulf region. This installment examines the contrary goals of international organizations and the conflicting goals of the Biden Administration.

The pile on against Israel’s war of necessity shows that anti-Semitism may have made a strategic retreat after the Holocaust, but it is never far away. The language of modern-day progressive anti-Semites may be cloaked in the lingua franca of oppressor (whites, Jews, the United States, and Israel) and oppressed (blacks, LGBTQIA+, and Palestinians), but the vehement antagonism is immutable.

While the media is absorbed by immature, ignorant, and occasionally comical demonstrations on American campuses, what really matters are the official diktats that compromise Israel’s international relations, including with its Arab neighbors.

Israel is being held to an impossible and unprecedented standard for the conduct of war, and that campaign went into overdrive in May with International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan’s ultra vires application for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant; the International Court of Justice (ICJ) order that Israel end most military operations in Rafah; a critical State Department report accusing Israel, despite an admitted lack of evidence, of violating international humanitarian law (IHL); United Nations resolutions and E.U. member actions recognizing a Palestinian state; and scathing attacks from President Joe Biden and his spokespeople, mixed with lucid interludes of an “ironclad” and “unwavering” defense of Israel.

The week Biden withheld arms shipments and Israel re-entered Rafah, I was meeting with top officials in Israel and the United Arab Emirates, and with hostage families, as part of a small delegation from the Republican Jewish Coalition. Officials and political and business leaders with whom we met privately included Netanyahu, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana, U.S. born and educated Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, and chairman of the Abu Dhabi Defense Counsel, Dr. Ali Rashid al Nuaimi.

We also visited IDF bases in Israel and the West Bank, Re’im, the site of the Nova music festival, where Hamas massacred 360 civilians, and Kfar Azar, the first Kibbutz attacked by Hamas on October 7. While we were at Kfar Azar, directly across from Northern Gaza, an artillery skirmish broke out between the IDF and Hamas, and we were asked to move out of range of Hamas snipers. Skirmishes in the North are increasing as Hamas forces rebuild during the pause imposed by the United States, and abetted by Egyptian perfidy that scuttled negotiations for a hostage release.

There is a consensus of governments in the Gulf region that Hamas should be destroyed, though some are concerned that mischaracterizations of Israeli operations, or Israeli errors that increase civilian casualties, can destabilize the region, and interfere in containing Iran, which is seen as an imperative. There is a range of views regarding how Gaza should be governed the “day after” the Israeli mission, though numerous Arab governments appear ready to participate.

The “inherent” right of defense is embodied in the U.N. charter at Chapter VII, Article 51. Our visit, informed observers, and international law resolutely support that: despite the absurd denials of some pro-Hamas demonstrators, there is no doubt about the horrific details of Hamas’s attack on Israeli civilians, or its taking, holding, and murdering hostages whom it could immediately release without precondition; Israel is responding with far greater restraint than other countries, including the United States, have shown in similar circumstances; more precisely, as John Spencer, chair of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point, and the leading expert on urban warfare, explains, no military force has ever done more than Israel to avoid civilian casualties in urban warfare; Hamas alone is responsible for civilian casualties—it started this war and hides behind civilians, hospitals, schools, and residences; and it is Hamas, not Israel, that seeks genocide.

Hamas’s founding charter, the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement, issued in August 1988, states that Israel must be “obliterated” and that “Moslems must fight Jews and kill them.” In May 2017, without revoking its 1988 charter, Hamas issued “A Document of General Principles and Policies” that advocated the destruction of Israel “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.” Meanwhile, the death of civilians, who were put in harm’s way by Hamas, is not a genocide. There is no basis to the calumny that Israel seeks, intends, invites, or accepts the death of innocent Palestinian civilians. Even the tragic death on May 14 of up to 40 civilians in Rafah, initially blamed on Israel, was in fact the result of the explosion of a Hamas ammunition dump located adjacent to refugee tents.

In a flawed “two sides” writ, on May 20 ICC Prosecutor Khan alleged that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Hamas’s Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri (Deif), and Ismail Haniyeh bear criminal responsibility for murder, extermination, and taking hostages, among other crimes, as well as that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gallant are responsible for crimes against humanity “committed on the territory of the State of Palestine,” including starvation and “extermination” of civilians. Khan smugly abuses laws and a process developed to protect Jews after the Holocaust to accuse Netanyahu and Gallant of perpetrating against Palestinians the atrocities to which the Nazis subjected the Jews.

Aside from the factual and legal flaws in Khan’s lawfare against Israel, the ICC has no jurisdiction to seek these warrants. Like the United States, Israel is not a party to the treaty that establishes ICJ jurisdiction. Though recognized to some degree by 140 countries, Palestine is not a country, and therefore cannot be the basis for an ICJ action. Even the Biden Administration has strongly condemned the ICC actions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the administration would support bipartisan action in Congress against both the ICC and Khan. Ironically, after taking office, the administration revoked similar sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration.

After Khan’s announcement, Germany declared that it would arrest Netanyahu and Gallant if they entered Germany. Also in May, Ireland, Spain, and Norway recognized a Palestinian state, and the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution declaring that Palestinians should qualify for full membership status at the United Nations. Full membership requires the approval of the Security Council, and likely would be vetoed by the United States.

By a vote of 13 to 2, on May 24 the ICJ ordered Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governate which may inflict upon the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that would bring about its physical destruction in whole and in part.” The ICJ willfully misstates facts, for example accepting Hamas’s casualty estimates even though they are invented, and recently declined by nearly 10,000 women and children. It also misapplies the Genocide Convention, which requires an intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. If Israel’s operations in Gaza constitute a genocide, then every war is genocide. Despite demanding that Israel do more to protect civilians, the Biden Administration has repeatedly declared that Israel’s actions do not constitute genocide. Yet, it is unsurprising that, led by its president, Nawaf Salam, who in 2015 tweeted “Unhappy birthday to [Israel]: 48 years of occupation,” a kangaroo court with no enforcement powers slanders and seeks to delegitimize Israel.

Despite coming to Israel’s defense after the ICJ and ICC actions, the White House hatched its own plan to pillory Israel. On February 8, 2024, the White House released a National Security Memorandum (NSM-20) in which Biden ordered the Secretary of State to “obtain credible and reliable written assurances” from foreign governments that their militaries will use U.S. weapons in accordance with IHL and other international law. Just 90 days later, on May 10, the State Department issued its report.

In its report, State acknowledges that “On October 7, 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terrorists launched an unprovoked, large-scale attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing an estimated 1,200 individuals, injuring more than 5,400, intentionally targeting civilians without any military justification, and abducting 253 hostages, including American citizens” (Emphasis supplied). State also acknowledges, that, unlike Hamas, “Israel has institutions and processes charged with upholding the implementation of IHL. Israeli military lawyers can and do give binding legal advice during military operations, and the Israeli Supreme Court may provide judicial review of past targeting and/or operational decisions made during armed conflict. Prior to the conflict in Gaza, the IDF sent an average of approximately 500 personnel to the United States annually for relevant DoD-sponsored training. In many of these courses, IDF personnel are trained to U.S. standards on civilian harm mitigation.”

Further, “[I]t is also important to emphasize that a country’s overall commitment to IHL is not necessarily disproven by individual IHL violations, so long as that country is taking appropriate steps to investigate and where appropriate determine accountability for IHL violations…. The [U.S. Intelligence Community] has no direct indication of Israel intentionally targeting civilians.”

The report listed some of the steps taken by Israel to protect civilians—some never before taken by any military, including the United States: “Israel has provided hundreds of tactical pauses to allow civilians to leave combat zones. These range from an evacuation order at the beginning of the war for civilians in northern Gaza to move to the south two weeks before ground operations began; to establishing daily four-hour humanitarian pauses, with three hours’ notice, and evacuation corridors to allow for north-south movements; to hundreds of smaller-scale pauses in specific neighborhoods to allow civilians to procure supplies and/or seek medical care. The IDF used numerous methods to inform citizens of these pauses, including dropping leaflets, making automated phone calls, and sending SMS text messages. Israel has a sophisticated system for identifying where civilians are located in order to try to minimize civilian harm.”

State acknowledged that “The [U.S. government] is not aware of defense articles covered under NSM-20…being misused for purposes inconsistent with the intended purposes,” and that the State Department does not “assess that the Israeli government is prohibiting or otherwise restricting the transport or delivery of U.S. humanitarian assistance within the meaning of section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act.”

Nevertheless, the report concludes, and the administration stressed in its releases and statements, that while “it is difficult to assess or reach conclusive findings on individual incidents…it is reasonable to assess that defense articles…have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its IHL obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.” The report also said that Israel could do “more” to protect civilians, but did not explain what that might be. Apparently to prove its mettle, the administration then withheld a shipment of munitions to Israel, inexplicably including the kits that convert dumb bombs into the precision weapons that safeguard civilians.

According to UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO accredited by both the U.N. Economic and Social Council and the U.N. Department of Public Information, since 2015, the General Assembly has adopted 140 resolutions criticizing Israel, compared to 68 resolutions against all other countries combined.

A UN Watch report issued in June 2023 observes that since the formation of the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2006, it has passed no resolutions condemning China, Cuba, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, or Zimbabwe; two condemning Sudan, three, Venezuela, 12, Eritrea, 14, Iran, 16, North Korea, 42, Syria, and 103 condemning Israel. The report observes, “Beyond the numbers, what makes the resolutions on Israel different from virtually every other country-specific resolution is that they are suffused with political hyperbole, selective reporting, and the systematic suppression of any countervailing facts that might provide balance in background information or context.”

The report’s conclusion applies equally to the ICJ, ICC, State department’s NSM-20 report, the Biden Administration’s schizophrenia, and the worldwide condemnation to which Israel has been subjected for waging a righteous war of defense. Just substitute the applicable international organization, or Biden Administration: “Key bodies of the United Nations are being willfully and systematically misused by an organized campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel and the Jewish people. Noble principles such as human rights, equality, and peace are being subverted by gross discrimination, politicization, and prejudice. The United Nations will never live up to its founding promise so long as this pathology endures.”


The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

Suggested reading

to the newsletter