The United States and Israel have shared a remarkably similar military record, largely consisting of war crimes and international condemnation. The US, as we are all constantly reminded, is going on 12 years of fighting the global War on Terror. Israel is caught in their perpetual war/occupation with/of Palestine. Both are guilty of massive human rights violations. And interestingly enough, both are pardoned in their countries by right-wing war hawks and blind-eye liberals alike, although the rest of the world strongly opposes such excessive militarism. Amnesty International's human rights concerns within the Occupied Territories "include but are not limited to, ill-treatment and torture of detainees, excessive use of force, the detention of conscientious objectors, and forced evictions and home demolitions within 'unrecognized' Bedouin villages." The human rights violations shared by the US and Israel, ones that are implemented in both the War on Terror and the Occupied territories include torture, targeted assassinations, civilian casualties, and indefinite detention without proper due process.
To start, let's take torture practices, as light a topic as any for a Monday morning. As defined by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, torture is "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person," and has been declared illegal since 1987. The U.S. has long been exposed for torturous interrogative techniques, both inside and outside of its borders. There's stress and duress practices, sensory deprivation, water boarding, and other forms of excessive force that has ended in multiple deaths of prisoners, most notably in Abu Ghraib. All the while, American politicians ignore or deny, and refuse to reform our "enhanced interrogation program," a sickening euphemism for torturing the all mighty hell out suspected (not proven) threats of terrorism. In Israel, Amnesty reports "the Israeli security services have routinely tortured Palestinian political suspects in the Occupied Territories." And for those skeptical of Amnesty's credibility in Israel, the London Sunday Times published an extensively researched study in 1977 called Israel Tortures Arab Prisoners: Special Investigation by INSIGHT. Since, countless reports by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and B'tselem continue to expose Israel's torture practices. During the first intifada, Human Rights Watch reported the number of tortured Palestinians in the ten thousands. It's a very basic idea that torture is, and should be, illegal, considering its dehumanizing effects on all parties involved. Despite its clear illegality, U.S. and Israeli torturers enjoy immunity from international law.
Next, let's take targeted assassination programs. In the States, we know it as drone warfare. In Israel, it's known as political liquidation. As a preventative measure, the U.S. and Israel target individuals suspected of having terrorist-related intentions, and pretty much blow them up. There are a few primary troubles involved with targeted killing programs. One is that they are carried out against suspected terrorists, not proven terrorists. They aren't arrested and questioned, they're murdered, and in more cases than any of us would like to accept, an innocent person is targeted. Second is the issue of collateral damage. Collateral damage, in this case, is the killing of innocent civilians. In the U.S. drone warfare program, a study in September 2012 by NYU School of Law and Stanford Law School showed between 474 and 881 innocent civilians killed as a result of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, with almost 200 of them being children. In Israel, B'tselem reported Israeli political liquidations killing 425 Palestinians between September 2000 and August 2011. Out of this sample, 251 were targeted individuals and 174 were innocent civilians, leaving a roughly 60% accuracy rate of the program, with the other 40% being a heinous war crime. But as the theme continues, U.S. and Israel military policy are of such importance, they're exempt from following the laws of war that govern the rest of the world. Applying George Orwell's equality proclamation from Animal Farm on the international community, "all (countries) are equal, but some (countries) are more equal than others." The U.S. and Israel undoubtedly deem themselves and each other (at least in the U.S. ---> Israel sense) more equal than others.
The targeted killing practices move us right into the little predicament of civilian casualties. Israel and Israel apologists boast a low civilian casualty ratio, with the 2006 Gaza War being an especially proud representation where >1 civilian was killed for every 1 combatant, an impressive figure for today's warfare standards. So impressive that it left me pretty curious as to what exactly Israel defines as an enemy combatant. Last fall, in justification to drone warfare, President Obama attempted to lessen the problem of civilian deaths by defining a "militant" as any "military age males in a strike zone." According to the Geneva Convention, militants are members of "the armed forces (or other militias/volunteer corps) of a Party to the conflict." Back to Israel, the publicized civilian casualty ratios are a bit suspicious. There are disagreements on exact figures; the Israeli Defense Forces publicize their own statistics, and always provide less alarming numbers than reports by investigative human rights organizations. Benjamin Rutland, an IDF spokesperson, defines a combatant as "anyone who is involved with terrorism within Hamas. This ranges from the strictly military institutions and includes the political institutions that provide the logistical funding and human resources for the terrorist arm." This isn't a malicious definition by any means, but its flaw lies in its shocking ambiguity. "Anyone who is involved with terrorism within Hamas." And who has the last word on who that may be, regardless of how true it is? No wonder the civilian casualty rate is so low, much like Obama's broad definition to lower civilian casualties, the IDF relies on a dangerously ambiguous definition of what a combatant is, leaving lots of room for estimation/manipulation.
Indefinite detention speaks for itself. Amnesty International's annual 2013 report states "the Israeli authorities held more than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 178 administrative detainees at the end of the year, after a temporary decrease in numbers following Palestinian and international protests." Very often is the case that no meeting with a lawyer is arranged, and no definitive evidence is presented. In the States, there's the story of 86 prisoners in Guantanamo that have been cleared for release with no actual idea when or if they'll be freed. Not only do these violent practices harm those subject to the violence-- interrogated subject, wrongful assassination target, civilian bystander, or political prisoner-- they hurt the countries that practice them. Terrorism (albeit state-sponsored terrorism) begets more terrorism. Without an ideological shift towards moral or legal obligation, these conflicts have no foreseeable end. And the longer they last, the greater the expense of human life.