The Hypocrisy is Palpable

By Joseph Carvalko | 27 December 2023
Church and State

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

During this Christmas week, the Gaza Health Ministry reported that the war between Israel and Hamas has resulted thus far in fifty-five thousand civilians injured and 20,000 have been killed, or nearly 1 in every 100 people have died since the war began in the Gaza Strip. Many of these deaths were caused by unguided dumb bombs that struck over 22,000 terror targets in Gaza since the Hamas attacks on October 7. I am not a politician, but someone who has spent a good part of a long career at the intersection of law, ethics and technology. Lately much focus has been on cyber-technology, particularly Internet security, designed to thwart malware or the theft of information, or the harmful effects of social media in fomenting civil unrest or damaging our youth’s self-image, or the concerns over AI creativity due to AI generative pre trained transformers that can draft copy or generate images. Focusing on these topics are important as each affects many facets of daily life. But these concerns are trivial when compared to questions related to the morality of bomb technology, smart or dumb, that wholesale is killing innocent women and children.

PBS New Hour host, Geoff Bennett said earlier this week that both CNN and The Washington Post reported that the U.S. intelligence believes that 40 to 45 percent of the bombs that Israel has dropped on Gaza were unguided dumb bombs, as opposed to precision munitions, which are much more accurate. Although precision bombs are being deployed, dumb bombs kill more innocent people than smart bombs do.

During WWII the Allied world were aghast over the Nazi terror that dumb V2 missiles inflicted on innocent Londoners. Today the U.K. and U.S. stand shoulder-to-shoulder against the U.N. Security Council’s resolution to stop the bombing madness from raining down on Gaza. In fact, on December 22, the United States and Russia abstained on a negotiated U.N. Security Council resolution allowing passage of a measure designed to expand and facilitate humanitarian aid to the Palestinian civilian population now said to be close to a deadly famine. But notably the resolution did not address the senseless killing of women and children that remains unabated. And we should not be naïve, Israel’s continued incessant bombing will materially impede implementation of the December 22 resolution.

The hypocrisy of those that claim peace yet have little to say about decimating entire Gazan families must not stand. During December’s religious holidays, Christians call for peace. Many know well the parable, where “Mother Mary” seeks a quiet manger in Bethlehem to give birth to baby Jesus. In the Jewish tradition of Hanukah, we are reminded of the siege against poorly armed Jews by one of the mightiest armies on earth. U.S. and Israel leaders, among whom are influential Christians, Jews and Muslims, refuse to demand a cessation of the obviously indiscriminate and inhumane bombing of civilians, while claiming to celebrate peace on earth. I’m exhausted by the duplicity.

Let’s call what is happening by its proper name. The term for the mass killing of civilians by a military force is “massacre,” which generally describes the intentional killing of a large number of people, without regard for age, gender, or culpability. Massacres can occur in a variety of contexts, including war, genocide, and state-sponsored violence. As a veteran of the Vietnam Era, I remember reading about the My Lai Massacre during that war. Later I would come to read about, as the rest of the world did, the Srebrenica Massacre during the Bosnian War, and the Rwandan Genocide. There have been too many others.[1] There likely will come a day of moral reckoning when we look back on Gaza.

It’s an accepted norm throughout the civilized world that civilian massacres are outlawed under international law. The prohibition on killing civilians and persons hors de combat, or those unable to defend themselves, is set forth in numerous military manuals and in the legislation of a large number of international States. Most prominent in this regard are Protocols I and II, international treaties that supplement the Geneva Conventions of 1949, prohibiting murdering civilians.[2]

Israel and the state of Palestine, which includes Gaza, are signatories to the 1949 Geneva Convention. Unfortunately, Israel has not ratified the first two protocols of the convention from 1977, which further defined the protection of civilians, property, and the environment during armed conflict. A notable inclusion, Article 75 of Protocol I, is considered part of customary international law by the U.S., and thus binds not only the U.S., but presumably Israel. This provision mandates humane treatment for persons held by combatant powers and outlines a comprehensive list of forbidden actions.[3]

But nothing in international law is straightforward and nations routinely skirt provisions that do not conveniently support their military or political objectives.[4] The U.N. has condemned the killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and has called for an immediate end to the violence. The International Criminal Court has had jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed on the territory of Palestine since June 13, 2014. Recently it announced it will investigate all sides of the conflict, including Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups, as well as Israeli forces and officials. Other international organizations have also responded to the unremitting violence against the Gazan civilian population.[5]

So, many of us rail about cyber-technology, while ignoring the inhumanity of dumb bombs and smart missiles that kill innocent people. We cannot in good conscience ignore that many more thousands will perish, unless leaders in the U.S. and U.K. remember a time when England was being pummeled by bombs launch from Germany. And, remember to show a measure of compassion by voting in favor of the U.N. Security Council’s resolution to stop the madness.

Notes

[1] My Lai massacre – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Lai_massacre; Burkina Faso: Army Linked to Massacre of 156 Civilians. https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/05/04/burkina-faso-army-linked-massacre-156-civilians. Tortured to death: Myanmar mass killings revealed – BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-59699556; US military admits killing 23 civilians around the world in 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/3/us-military-admits-killing-23-civilians-around-the-world-in-2020; Tatmadaw: Myanmar’s notoriously brutal military – BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56660483.

[2] Customary IHL – Rule 89. Violence to Life – International Committee of …. https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/en/customary-ihl/v1/rule89.

[3] Article 75 of Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions provides that persons shall be treated humanely in all circumstances and shall enjoy, as a minimum, the protection provided by the Article without any adverse distinction based upon race, color, sex, language, religion or belief, political or other opinion, national or social origin, wealth, birth or other status, or on any other similar criteria. The article also prohibits certain acts such as violence to the life, health, or physical or mental well-being of persons, murder, torture of all kinds, corporal punishment, mutilation, outrages upon personal dignity, enforced prostitution, any form of indecent assault, taking of hostages, collective punishments, and threats to commit any of the foregoing acts.

[4] International conventions and treaties are difficult to enforce, see, https://www.cfr.org/article/what-international-law-has-say-about-israel-hamas-war.

[5] Damning evidence of war crimes as Israeli … – Amnesty International. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/10/damning-evidence-of-war-crimes-as-israeli-attacks-wipe-out-entire-families-in-gaza/; Israel Responds to Hamas Crimes by Ordering Mass War Crimes in Gaza. https://theintercept.com/2023/10/09/israel-hamas-war-crimes-palestinians/. Israel-Gaza war live: Israeli airstrikes kill over 100 people in one of war’s deadliest nights, say Gaza officials. https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/israel-gaza-war-live-dozens-killed-as-israeli-strikes-on-gaza-continue-on-christmas-day/ar-AA1lZWOu; Have war crimes been committed in Israel and Gaza, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/31/have-war-crimes-been-committed-in-israel-and-gaza-and-what-international-laws-apply. Israeli air strike kills at least 70 Palestinians in central Gaza refugee camp -Palestinian health officials. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/israeli-air-strike-kills-at-least-70-palestinians-in-central-gaza-refugee-camp-palestinian-health-officials/ar-AA1lZdXH. Israel Uses Starvation of Civilians as a Weapon of War in Gaza – HRW. https://www.palestinechronicle.com/israel-uses-starvation-of-civilians-as-a-weapon-of-war-in-gaza-hrw/. What are the laws of war, and how they apply to the Israel-Gaza conflict, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/what-are-the-laws-of-war-punishment-war-crimes/.

Carvalko’s opinions are his own and do not reflect any affiliation he may have or enjoy in his professional or private life.

Joseph Carvalko is an American technologist, academic, patent lawyer, and writer. As an inventor and engineer, he has been awarded 18 patents in various fields. He has authored academic books, articles, and fiction throughout his career. Currently he is Chairman, Technology and Ethics Working Research Group, Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Yale University; an Adjunct Professor of Law at Quinnipiac University, School of Law, teaching Law, Science and Technology; member, IEEE, Society on Social Implications of Technology and member of the Publications Board, IEEE Transactions on Technology and Society. His latest book provides the latest account of AI and genetics from a technical, historical and ethical perspective as well as expectations for its future development.

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