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Global Education

A failing human

By Denebola
Published: December 2007

By David Gabriel

As the only stable democratic nation amid monarchies, theocracies and oligarchies, Israel has a vested interest in maintaining a strong record on human rights.
Unfortunately, Israel’s location among hostile neighbors, as well as persistent tensions with its Palestinian population, has created both motive and opportunity for egregious human rights violations.
During the 1967 Six-Day War, the Israeli army captured territories that are populated mostly by Palestinians and whose ownership is still highly contested. The outcome of the war was a military victory, but a diplomatic nightmare. In the process of defeating four nations in less than a week, an entire people, the Palestinians, remained in the territories under the flag of a nation they did not support.
One of the occupied territories is the West Bank, a large strip of land on the border with Jordan. For 40 years, Israel has kept the territory despite international outrage. Israel vacated the Gaza Strip, another of the occupied territories, two years ago after 38 years of occupation.
Two years after the Six Day War, former Prime Minister Golda Meir stated, “How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.”
One of the more controversial Israeli policies in the territories is the use of the Caterpillar D9 bulldozer do destroy terrorists’ homes. The armored bulldozer is one of the reasons that the IDF has such low casualty rates in cities, but its use has been widely criticized for the total destruction it inflicts in Palestinian urban areas.
Israel also faces challenges with is its understanding in military conflicts of proportionality. Israel struggled with exacting proportional responses during the First and Second
Intifada, a series of conflicts between Palestinian fighters and Israeli troops, and still does today. Israel was recently criticized for a November 2006 incident in which the Israeli army shelled a Gaza town in response to Qassam rockets fired from Gaza into Israel.
In the summer of 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon after the capture of two young Israeli soldiers. International observers accused Israel of violating United Nations Resolution 3314, which designates the use of armed attacks as a form of aggression.
The capture of the two troops allowed Israel to invoke Articles 41 and 42 of the United Nations charter and to attack Hezbollah, a militant organization funded by Iran and Syria and located in Lebanon, as means of self-defense. Israel faced loud and vehement criticism for the destruction of homes, mosques, a United Nations headquarters, and the use of cluster bombs during this so-called “summer war.”
Surrounded by enemies, Israel is certainly in a difficult position militarily and diplomatically. Israel constantly faces security threats from neighboring armies, Palestinian militants, and Hezbollah. But a clearer human rights record would give Israel more political capitol to work with when trying to ameliorate some of the key international crises of the modern era.

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