NLG Files Brief With Israeli Supreme Court Challenging Israel’s Assassinations of Palestinians
National Lawyers Guild Press Release
Portland, Oregon — Portland attorneys today announced that they, on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, are challenging Israel’s assassinations of Palestinians in an “amicus,” or “friend of the court,” brief submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court. Steven Goldberg, Co-Chair of the International Committee of the NLG, stated, “The NLG has long stood for basic human and civil rights, and Israel’s routine use of assassination of Palestinians is a clear and material breach of international law.” The author of the brief, Thomas H.
Nelson, said, “One major purpose of the brief is to tell the Israeli authorities, including the military forces, that the world legal community is watching and that those who violate human rights protections in international law may well find themselves charged in criminal courts.” Zaha Hassan, Palestinian-American attorney who co-authored an earlier NLG report documenting America’s role in facilitating Israel’s occupation over Palestinian land stated, “American attorneys have a special responsibility to defend the human rights of the Palestinians, both inside and outside of the occupied territories. This is because our government gives overwhelming financial and military assistance to Israel, and without our assistance Israel would have neither the arms nor the financial ability to continue the occupation of Palestinian land.”
The assassination issue arose when Israeli attorneys representing the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and LAW, both Israeli non-governmental organizations, filed a lawsuit against the State of Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and the Israeli Defense Forces alleging widespread and wanton extra-judicial killings of Palestinians during the current intifada, or uprising. In a Petition filed by attorneys Avigdor Feldman and Michael Sfard, the two NGOs list hundreds of instances in which the IDF targeted and killed Palestinian individuals; in some instances, many innocent bystanders were also killed and injured. As but one of many examples, the Petition points out that in the early morning hours on July 23, 2002, an Israeli pilot flying an American-made airplane dropped a 1000-kilogram bomb on the al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza, the most densely populated area in the world. The attack was aimed at Hamas member Salah Shehadeh, who was at home at the time. The bomb caused the collapse of many apartment buildings, the death of 14 human beings, and injured over 150. Among the dead were seven members of the Matar family – a 27-year old mother and her three children – two other children (2 months and 11 years), a grandmother (69), three members of the Haweiti family (mother, 30, and her two children, 4 and 6), as well as Shehadeh’s wife and daughter (45 and 15, respectively).
In the brief, Nelson points out that Israel has crossed the line from legitimate self-defense to outright murder. “No one would challenge an IDF soldier shooting a Hamas militant about to kill an Israeli, at least so long as no lesser means of restraint was available. But the recent cases show a policy of cold, calculated, extra-judicial killings carried out when there was no imminent threat to anyone.” Nelson also noted that because Israel has obtained from the United States overwhelming military superiority over the Palestinians, it could simply arrest those it targets. “The Israeli policy of assassination has evolved into a political tool – one intended not to stop the intifada but, rather, to show the Israeli population that the Sharon government is ‘doing something,'” he said. “If the United States won’t rein in its client state, particularly at a time when the prospect of peace in this troubled region is at least being discussed, the international legal community must attempt to do so.”