The National Lawyers’ Guild National Executive Committee recently endorsed the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s Israeli Accountability Campaign (IAC). The IAC seeks to use the pending law suit against Moshe Ya’alon as a tool to educate and mobilize legal and general communities nationally and to demand that the Bush Administration hold Israel accountable for its war crimes past and present.
During its attack on Lebanon this summer, Israeli Air Forces struck a building in Qana, Lebanon providing shelter to 63 displaced Lebanese civilians. Initial reports stated that 59 civilians had been killed including 37 children. The youngest of the dead was 10 months old, the eldest was 95 years old. This is not the first time Israel has attacked Lebanese civilians in Qana. On April 18, 1996, Israel shelled a UN Compound in Qana providing shelter to approximately 800 civilians. The shelling killed 106 civlians, injured hundreds of others and caused severe destruction in the area.
Israel could not have committed these potential war crimes without our U.S. military, economic, and diplomatic support. During Israel’s attack on Lebanon from July 12th to August 14th 2006, the U.S expedited arms and fuel shipments to Israel to continue its indiscriminate attack on Lebanese civilians. In 1996, intense US and Israeli political pressure shelved the UN investigation of the Qana massacre that found that although “while the possibility cannot be ruled out completely it is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors.” Had the Clinton Administration held Israel to account for its war crimes in 1996, presumably, Israel would have exercised greater restraint and respect for international laws of war in its most recent attack on Lebanon.
On November 4, 2005, nearly 10 years after the shelling of the Qana compound, the Center for Constitutional Rights in cooperation with several U.S.-based human rights attorneys, filed a class action lawsuit against Moshe Ya’alon, a retired Israeli general who served as Head of Israeli Army Intelligence during the 1996 shelling of Qana. The claims against Ya’alon include war crimes, extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The lawsuit is brought pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute which permits non-US citizens for violations of customary international law in U.S. federal courts, and the Torture Victim Protection Act, which provides for damages for extrajudicial killing under color of foreign law.
What You Can Do
Our vision to use the pending law suit against Ya’alon as a way to educate and mobilize legal and general communities nationally thereby using our agency as U.S. citizens and taxpayers to hold Israel accountable by challenging U.S. foreign policy towards Israel. The demands of the campaign are three-fold:
1. The survivors of Qana 1996 be compensated for wrongful death and damage done to their lands and livelihoods;
2. The survivors of Qana 2006 be compensated for wrongful death and damage done to their lands and livelihoods; and
3. Israel finance an international clean up of the cluster bombs.
NLG local and law school chapters are encouraged to raise awareness amongst NLG local and law school chapters are asked to follow-up with their teach-in with an action plan. The Action Plan can vary from one locale to the next but possibilities include:
(1) Organizing a letter-writing campaign to Congressional representatives urging them to support Senator Diane Feinstein’s recent legislation to ban federal funding for cluster bombs;
(2) Organizing a postcard drive addressed to Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, demanding compensation for Qana (‘96 and ‘06) survivors and removal of all cluster bombs; and
(3) Coordinating a divestment campaign from US-based corporations profiting from Israeli occupation and aggression and/or a comprehensive divestment campaign from Israel.
To help NLG local and law school chapters get involved, the US Campaign has created organizing packets which include factsheets, a 28-minute DVD, advocacy postcards, and a sample letter to Congress. To receive a packet or learn more about the Campaign, please email firstname.lastname@example.org