Mark Goldfeder, director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center, took to Twitter on Thursday to tackle accusations that Israel would be in violation of international law by enacting a siege on Gaza.
Goldfeder was tackling accusations from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Peter Beinart that Israel would violate international law and norms by enacting a siege.
He couches his argument largely in the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC), which are a series of regulations on armed conflict originating in the Geneva and Hague Conventions.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regularly publishes documents detailing the LOAC. The LOAC is also cited in both American and British military training manuals as part of the regulations soldiers must follow.
Dear @AOC and friends:You don't understand the first thing about international law, but that doesn't stop you from spreading your ignorance. Here is a quick primer on the Law of Armed Conflict to explain why you and @Ilhan are incredibly, dangerously, wrong as usual: https://t.co/Gmoka70J8L— Mark Goldfeder (@MarkGoldfeder) October 12, 2023
"The central feature of the LOAC is to prevent unnecessary casualties and protect innocent civilians," said Goldfeder. This is done "through the application of three fundamental principles: distinction, military necessity, and proportionality."
He explained that distinction requires combatants and civilians to be clearly distinguished and that attacks must not be directed against civilians, only combatants.
"Hamas does not do that," he said.
Then he cited a Lieber Insitute report that says, "There are no reliable reports that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have intentionally targeted civilians." The Lieber Institute is part of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, colloquially known as West Point, the premier US military academy.
He clarifies by saying that it doesn't mean Israel won't respond to Hamas, nor does it mean that innocent lives won't be lost.
Military necessity, Goldfeder said, permits “measures which are actually necessary to accomplish a legitimate military purpose and are not otherwise prohibited by international humanitarian law.”
He directly refuted any claims that blockades are illegal under international law citing from the ICRC casebook, which sets out a series of requirements for a legal blockade such as specifying a start date, geographic range, and finally allowing neutral ships to leave before it begins.
Goldfeder specified that there are humanitarian aspects of the law such as facilitating the passage of food and medicine by third parties, adding that "IF and only IF they can be reliably delivered without diversion to the enemy."
He summed up the understanding of siege law as "Sieges are lawful unless deliberately aimed at starving the local population."
"Israel’s aims, repeatedly stated, are to defeat Hamas terrorists by depriving them of resources and to rescue hostages," he said.
He again clarified that it doesn't mean that there is no limit on Israel's actions, saying that the third principle of proportionality is key here.
"The principle of proportionality forbids attacks in which the expected incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or any combination thereof, would be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage gained," he explained.
Proportionality is not about revenge nor is it about comparing the capabilities of technology or weaponry, nor is it effect-based. It also does not look at the amount of damage, or the number of dead bodies, on both sides.
He describes proportionality here, "Proportionality is a prospective analysis that legally permits the risk of collateral damage necessary to achieve a just military objective. The greater the objective, the greater the extent of permitted risk of incidental damage or even, God forbid, death."
Israel's military objective is to wipe out Hamas due to its targeting of men, women, and children, this is a legitimate objective under the LOAC.
He also noted that only 6% of Gaza's water is purchased from Israel while the vast majority 92% is found in natural aquifers.
He also said that, under the LOAC, Israel is under no obligation to provide Gaza with electricity, because there is no way to ensure it will not be used by Hamas.
He ended with, "To review: A proportional targeted response is not collective punishment, and you are not qualified to opine on this situation."