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Israel using ‘baseless legal interpretations’ to justify ‘lethal force’ against protesters

A wounded Palestinian is being moved away from the site after Israeli forces fire at protesters during the 'Great March of Return' in Gaza on 30 March 2018 [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

Israel is repressing Palestinian protests in Gaza with “unlawful use of lethal force”, using “baseless legal interpretations” to justify this policy and “whitewashing the crimes within days”, a human rights group claimed today.

B’Tselem, an internationally-respected Israeli human rights group, published its new position paper as Palestinians geared up for a third Friday of “Great Return March” protests.

In the paper, B’Tselem describe “Israel’s position that it may use live and potentially lethal fire against unarmed demonstrators who are endangering no one undermines every moral principle, contradicts the provisions of international law and is unlawful.”

The NGO adds that “the identity of the demonstrators and their organisational affiliation make no difference; blaming Hamas, as if it were Hamas operatives who shot the demonstrators, is baseless.”

Read: 105 injured people at the March of Return are in a critical condition

In a key section of the paper, breaking down the arguments marshalled to defend Israeli forces’ actions, B’Tselem notes how “officers formerly serving in the Military Judge Advocate (MAG) Corps have alluded to the legal justifications on which Israel relies”.

None of these justifications, however, pass muster, B’Tselem asserts.

“The open-fire policy cannot be dictated by worst-case scenarios that may or may not materialise, nor can the existence of such scenarios justify the widespread shooting of persons who in no way participate in realising them”, the paper states.

Israel uses international law to justify human rights violations, instead of seeing it as a tool meant to provide protection, albeit minimal, to the people subject to Israel’s power

B’Tselem says.

“The interpretation espoused by Israel is so extreme that it drains them of meaning. Small wonder, therefore, that this interpretation has been rejected by most jurists working on international law both in Israel and abroad.”

Summarising the events of recent weeks, B’Tselem says Israeli authorities are pursuing the following “successful recipe”, in suppressing Palestinian protests.

  1. “Coming up with unfounded legal interpretations that empty the norms of international law of real meaning, and using these norms not as a moral compass but a manual on how to violate them.”
  2. “Employing a broad policy of using military force based on this criminal interpretation, with predictable extensive injurious outcomes.”
  3. “Upholding the unlawful policy, despite the horrific results, and thereby continued extensive harm, all the while disavowing responsibility for these outcomes.” 4. “Extensive whitewashing intended to create the impression that Israel conducts genuine, effective investigations into its own actions, while, in practice, the responsibility of the higher ranks and the illegality of the policy are never investigated, the incidents that are investigated are considered “exceptional” and even in these cases, the fundamental principles that have been stripped of their meaning supply the justification for closing the investigation.”
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