In Destroying a Building That Housed the Associated Press, Israel Risked Its Own Safety to Protect Civilians

During the war with Hamas in May, the IDF destroyed the al-Jalaa tower in Gaza, which was home to the central offices of the Associate Press and Al Jazeera in the Strip, as well as a Hamas electronic-warfare base where operatives were developing technology for jamming Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. The IDF warned civilians in advance of the attack, and as a result no one was injured. The attack was nonetheless widely condemned for “targeting journalists.” As a result of the warning, the terrorists were able to rescue some of their equipment prior to the airstrike. Michael N. Schmitt, a scholar of the laws of war at the United States Military Academy at West Point, examines the Israeli decision from a legal standpoint:

Should a media facility be used for military purposes, it may become a military objective. . . . For instance, if a media facility is used to communicate information of military value, it qualifies as a military objective by use and may be attacked. Even if it is not the intended target, an attacker need not consider any incidental harm to the facility in . . . an attack on another military objective.

[Yes], the journalists and their facilities were civilian in character and entitled to all attendant protections, including application of the rule of proportionality and the requirement to take precautions in attack. [But] if the Israeli reports of Hamas using the building are accurate, the entire building constituted a single military objective, damage to which did not have to factor into the IDF’s proportionality calculation.

The IDF’s hour [of advance] warning of the attack was [moreover] a paradigmatic example of an effective warning. If IDF reports that Hamas and Islamic Jihad were able to evacuate the building and remove military material from the facility before it was struck are accurate, the warning appears to have exceeded that required by the law of armed conflict because it involved some sacrifice of military advantage by the IDF.

Counter-allegations that the IDF used the attack as a ploy to end unfavorable media [coverage] are unsupported by the available facts. . . . Based on open-source information presently available, the strike complied with the law of armed conflict.

Read more at Articles of War

More about: Al Jazeera, Guardian of the Walls, IDF, Laws of war, Media

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem