EERILY SILENT: Israel’s utter DISREGARD for civilian life in Gaza draws muted reaction from the West

EERILY SILENT: Israel’s utter DISREGARD for civilian life in Gaza draws muted reaction from the West

According to the United Nations (UN) website, international humanitarian law (IHL) is as old as war but it is an ever-growing set of rules of engagement that aims to limit a conflict’s effects on civilians or non-combatants. It means that this legislation protects people by not deliberately or indiscriminately attacking civilians, not taking hostages, not punishing civilians for the actions of individuals, and not denying or withholding humanitarian assistance.

Non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) further said that the principle of nonreciprocity inherent in the laws of war also applies to all conflicts. Violations of these laws by one side do not justify violations by another.

People have observed how in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the United States and European governments have rightly upheld life-protecting principles and denounced flagrant violations by Russian forces including indiscriminate attacks, unlawful killings, extrajudicial executions, cutting of electricity and water, and torture. These Western nations have also supported international efforts to seek justice for the war victims.

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However, while the European conflict drags on, another war erupted in the Middle East on the weekend of October 7 and 8 when the political and militant Islamist group Hamas staged a massive attack on the Gaza Strip, one of the two Palestinian territories that were part of Mandate Palestine and were captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. The other one is the West Bank. Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been under the rule of the Hamas.


The U.S. and the European Union quickly and rightly denounced the brutal attacks as the Palestinian armed groups killed more than 1,400 men, women and children, and took almost 200 hostages. They also quickly and rightly called for those responsible to be held to account and for hostages to be released. However, for the observers, Washington’s as well as the European capitals’ reaction to Israel’s counterattacks since the war started has been muted.

“Where is the clear condemnation of the cruel tightening of the 16-year closure of Gaza that amounts to collective punishment, a war crime? Where is the outrage at statements by Israeli political leaders that seek to blur the all-important distinction between civilians and combatants in Gaza even as they order ever more intense bombardment of this densely populated territory, reducing city blocks and neighborhoods to rubble?” HRW’s Deputy Program Director Tom Porteous questioned. “Where are the clear and unequivocal calls for Israel to respect international norms in its attack on Gaza, let alone for accountability?” Porteus further pointed out the hypocrisy and double standards of Western states that are flagrant and obvious, saying the rest of the world sees a muted reaction to the devastating harm done to civilians by Israel’s blockade and assault on Gaza.

“If the Western states want to convince the rest of the world to believe what they say about values, human rights and international laws governing armed conflict, the universal principles they rightly apply to Russian atrocities in Ukraine and to Hamas atrocities in Israel, they also have to apply to Israel’s brutal disregard for civilian life in Gaza,” he explained. (Related: Al-Ahli hospital bombing: Israel performing its usual post-atrocity routine.)

Italian writer accuses Israel of committing war crimes

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Turkey-run news agency Anadolu Ajansi, Italian writer and journalist Romana Rubeo said Israel’s attacks on civilian settlements, hospitals and schools in the Gaza Strip constitute a war crime. She also accused international organizations, Western countries and the mainstream media of covering up for Israel, highlighting speculations that the conflict had been pre-planned, after all.

Recalling that the UN issued a humanitarian crisis warning following Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza, Rubeo said that the situation in Gaza “is dramatic, and the United Nations has repeatedly warned of a humanitarian catastrophe.” She also added that the enclave has been under “hermetic Israeli siege” for 16 years already. “The Israeli government decided to put Gaza under what I call a medieval form of siege, meaning that no fuel, no electricity, no food, no water can access the Strip.”

She also noted that Israel used white phosphorus bombs in Gaza, which international law doesn’t allow and so it is but righteous for Israel to allow a temporary cease-fire to guarantee that the humanitarian aid reaches the Gaza Strip. “The Israeli authorities have issued several evacuation orders for hospitals. Of course, the management of the hospitals have rejected these calls, because evacuating hospitals now would mean a death sentence for the patients,” she reasoned out and added, “They [just] want to crush [the] civilian population in Gaza.”

Recalling that Israel committed many crimes against Palestinians in the past, Rubeo said: “Israel has never been held accountable for its repeated violations of international and humanitarian law, despite the fact that it has repeatedly violated hundreds of UN resolutions. So far, Israel has been shielded and protected by the international community, and I refer specifically to Western countries.”

“The media coverage has also been particularly shamefully biased towards Israel,” she added. “Everybody who is not speaking the truth and not speaking about what many analysts have described as a genocide, and everybody who is not respecting the professional rules, holds a responsibility.”

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