Last week’s violent conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad returned Khaled Gharabli to his element. As the designated terror organization indiscriminately fired 1,469 rockets at civilian communities in southern and central Israel, and the Israeli military carried out a reported 400 airstrikes against Islamic Jihad targets, hitting six of its senior command officials and 15 additional terrorist operatives, 122 rocket launchers, 12 weapons manufacturing sites, 21 operation command centers located in civilian buildings, and 19 mortar launchers, the France24 Arabic pundit once again hastened to falsely charge Israel of committing war crimes with impunity.
In a May 9 broadcast on the publicly funded French network, Gharabli engages in an extended, unchallenged diatribe about Israel’s Operation Shield and Arrow, assuming his preferred role as propagandist extraordinaire. (Previous exhibitions of his penchant for propaganda include his repeated denials that the Jewish Temples were located on the Temple Mount; his fabrication that Israeli references to Israel’s independence is tantamount to the rejection of Palestinian rights, and his assertion that a deadly terror attack in Jerusalem was a legitimate “use of force in self defense […] in respect to international law,” omitting the fact that all seven victims were civilians.) Covering the latest escalation, Gharabi returned to form with allegations of Israeli war crimes. In what amounts to a monologue, he tells anchorwoman Aziza Wassef (“Israel’s rockets kill women and children alongside the [Islamic] Jihad’s leaders, what about international law?”):
[0:26– Only] a handful of Israeli newspapers addressed the issue of the [killed] children’s pictures, perhaps Haaretz newspaper is the one which has addressed them. However, [even that was] not to ring the alarm bells in warning. Where are we going morality-wise, when the “defense” forces bombs a residential area while people are asleep and kills civilians, among them women and children? Nobody asks themselves about the moral and legal aspect …. At the moment I speak about 10 people, six women and four children … eventually, six women and four children were killed. …
This humanitarian aspect, nobody talks about it. And [there is] the legal aspect, bombing residential areas during [one’s] sleep and killing civilians in military operations, by a military that has a doctrine, and a state that says it has laws and they are respected, this is a breach of international laws, the international humanitarian law which prohibits targeting residential facilities and civilians, [it prohibits] even merely harming civilians. Consequently, what has happened at the hands of the Israeli military amounts to the level of a war crime, and nobody talks about it. …
A state which calls itself “democratic,” […] is a country that [should] respect human rights, first and foremost the right to life. … The right to life prohibits these civilians and children from being killed that way. International law prohibits that they would be killed that way, and nobody in Israel talks about this issue. …
It is enough for us to read the text of Article 8 of the fundamental Rome Statute [constituting] the International Criminal Court, because Article 8 identifies and defines [what] a war crime [is]. The fourth paragraph in particular, of those defining a war crime says, “Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated.”
Meaning, even if it is known to the Israeli military leadership that there are targets [around], specific persons that they wish to target, it is enough that there would be an intention to carry out attacks that civilians’ lives are subjected to, with the [Israeli] military leadership having prior knowledge that there is a danger to civilian lives, be it by death or injury, this [alone] amounts to the classification of a war crime. Consequently, even if voices come out and say, why do military leaders come to this residential area, in the bottom line, even in humanitarian law, Israel is not supposed and is not allowed to target them that way.
Gharabli’s two main premises are completely unfounded. First, his assertion that the Israeli media ignored the killed children is blatantly false. Several hours before the commencement of Gharabli’s and Wassef’s broadcast, nearly all major media outlets in Israel covered in real time the 10 civilians killed alongside the three targeted Islamic Jihad leaders. Many of the Israeli news items prominently reported that four children were among the dead (alongside four – not six – women), and published their photos.
Secondly, while Gharabli quoted Article 8 of the Rome Statute correctly, his interpretation is entirely false, as he completely disregarded the statute’s key qualification that attacks “clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated” are war crimes. (Emphasis added.) Thus, contrary to his assertion, the article permits attacks targeting a belligerent party, even if civilians will also be killed, so as long as the military benefit outweighs the civilian loss, a concept in international law known as proportionality.
Existing precedents suggest that no serious international jurist would argue that a targeted killing of a legitimate military target resulting in a civilian fatality ratio of less than 1 : 4 (combatants: civilians) constitutes a war crime. According to Israeli figures, 17* out of the 33 fatalities in the Gaza Strip were combatants, and four of the civilians deaths were caused by misfired Palestinian rockets. If those figures are all correct, then Israel was responsible for 12 civilian casualties out of 29 total fatalities killed by Israeli fire, yielding an impressive combatant to civilian ratio of 1.42 : 1. In short, the only disproportionality at play is the disproportionate harm inflicted on France24 Arabic’s self–proclaimed values of “ethics, independence and impartiality” due to Gharabli’s preposterous claims.
All translations, emphases and in-bracket remarks are by CAMERA Arabic. Editing and additional research by Tamar Sternthal.
* This post was corrected on May 17 to take into account that the Israel army’s figure of 21 Islamic Jihad casualties (six senior figures and 15 additional fighters) also included four fighters in the West Bank, leaving 17 combatant and 12 civilian fatalities in the Gaza Strip.
For the French version of this post, please see InfoEquitable.
May 22 Update: Meir Amit Research Center Publishes Fatality Stats
The Meir Amit Terrorism and Intelligence Research Center has published a detailed list of 33 Gaza casualties from Operation Shield and Arrow, attributing three to misfired Islamic Jihad rockets. Out of the 30 killed by Israel, Meir Amit identified 20 as "military-terrorist operatives," yielding a combatant to non-combatant ratio of 2:1. (Two of the non-combatants were affiliated with terror organizations "but did not actively participate in the fighting," the research center reported.