Earlier this month a conference was held in Jerusalem which Israel used as a way to brainstorm changes to international humanitarian law in order to make it easier for them to kill civilians without consequence.
It is the season for Israeli propaganda conferences, it seems. As Ben White has covered elsewhere, there was also the annual "Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism". This was less a genuine attempt to tackle a particular form of racism, and more a way to combat and slander expressions of solidarity with Palestine.
In March in Los Angeles, the organization of notorious international anti-Palestinian scaremongers StandWithUs held an entire conference dedicated purely to combating one particular strategy for expressing solidarity with Palestine (albeit probably the most popular and successful one): the boycott divestment and sanctions movement. Activists paid up to $800 each for the privilege of listening to Alan Dershowitz and a regular rogue's gallery of Zionist propagandists fret about BDS.
The Jerusalem conference, focused on "lawfare", was titled "Towards a new law of war" and was organized by Shurat HaDin, the so-called "Israel Law Centre". As documents leaked by whistle-blower Chelsea Manning revealed, and as I reported in 2013, Shurat HaDin is in fact a proxy group for the Mossad, Israel's deadly global spy agency.
The Mossad, and other Israeli intelligence and military agencies, utilise Shurat HaDin to pursue cases in global courts that it may be politically inconvenient to do so directly. As its found Nitsana Darshan-Leitner explained in a 2012 speech: "The Israeli government has some constraints, has some problems: they have to be politically correct. They have foreign relationships, they have international treaties they are signed of and they cannot do what private lawyers can do."
I've reported on Shurat HaDin for a while now, and so paid close attention to this new conference, watching the whole two-day event via internet live stream. Darshan-Leitner said during her closing remarks that the conference would become an annual event.
Over the course of two days, speaker after speaker lined up to think of new and creative ways to "reinterpret" the laws of war so that it would be easier for Israel to kill Palestinian and other Arab civilians in future wars. They not not want to have to worry about its politicians and military leaders being arrested and prosecuted for war crimes in courts around the world.
Colonel Richard Kemp, the retired British officer who is latterly one of Israel's favoured propagandists, described himself during the confernce as a "thug" who liked to fight. Naturally, then, Darshan-Leitner introduced his keynote speech describing him as "an officer, a gentleman and one of the Jewish state's greatest allies".
Kemp used his speech to argue for the rules of engagement and for the laws of war to be loosened in order to make it easier for Israel and other "democratic armies" (a contradiction in terms if there ever was one) to be able to inflict greater "collateral damage" – a euphemism for civilian casualties.
The audience included Tourism Minister Uzi Landau. Education Minister Naftali Bennett had been due to give a speech, but was unable to make it, apparently due to negotiations over the new Israeli coalition government. And Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon gave a long closing speech in which he made several chilling threats.
First of all he threatened that "we are going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family … in any round of hostilities [in Gaza or in Lebanon] in the future." He justified this using tired old lies about supposed "human shields", saying the fault for civilian casualties was not with Israel but with Hamas or Hizballah, or even with the civilians themselves.
Second, he made a threat which seemed to be saying that when "we feel like we don't have the answer by surgical operations" when it came to "tyrannical regimes" Israel might do something like the Americans did when they dropped atom bombs on Japan, killing 200,000, which he said had been "a moral decision". The threat was made in reply to a question from the audience about Iran.
There were many other such blood-thirsty statements, often couched in similar propaganda terms. But the message was clear: Israel should be allowed to kill with impunity.
Yaalon himself showed how sensitive Israel is to even the symbolic threat of the state being prosecuted for war crimes. He moaned and complained about how he had been unable to visit London or Spain for a few years because of the possibility of a warrant for his arrest for suspected war crimes being issued there (until the British government changed the law to make this harder).
That so much in the way of Israeli time and resources are being put into fighting such legal cases against Israel and against solidarity strategies such as BDS shows that Israel is vulnerable on this front, and that these Palestinian-led strategies are beginning to bear some fruit.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.