TIME Gaza

Remembering Videographer Simone Camilli: Watch One of His Final Projects

Simone Camilli
Associated Press video journalist Simone Camilli on a balcony overlooking smoke from Israeli Strikes in Gaza City. Camilli, 35, was killed in an ordnance explosion in the Gaza Strip, on Aug. 13, 2014 together with Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash and three members of the Gaza police. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

The video journalist was killed, along with a Palestinian translator, on Wednesday as they were reporting on the conflict in Gaza

Simone Camilli, a 35-year-old Italian journalist, was killed Wednesday in an ordnance explosion while reporting from the Gaza strip.

Camilli started his career in 2005 in Rome, as an intern with the Associated Press.

“He was a sponge,” said Derl McCrudden, head of international video news for the Associated Press. “He was one of those guys who learned everything he could about the job.”

One of his first assignments was to portray the world’s sorrow at the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005.

Maria Grazia Murru, currently a senior producer with the AP in Rome, remembers Camilli at the start of his career. “He was passionate about wanting to tell people’s stories and wanted to be where the story was all the time,” she said. “He wanted to learn everything and be the first, he was never happy waiting for images to happen.”

In 2006, Camilli moved to Jerusalem. From that moment on, he grew accustomed to rockets flying overhead, as he embarked on assignments in Israel, Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon and other areas of conflict. Camilli immersed himself in wartime reporting, vividly capturing with his camera both moments of sorrow and joy, colleagues said.

“His video had a signature, an incredible eye for detail and was able to personalize stories and portray human drama,” said Tomislav Skaro, a regional editor of international video for the AP. “He was incredibly calm, mature beyond his age, gentle and the friend that everybody wants to have.”

Camilli’s father, Pierluigi Camilli, said his son loved his work. The senior Camilli is a former journalist himself who currently serves as the mayor of Pitigliano, a small town in Italy, whose nickname is “little Jerusalem.”

“I talked with Simone the other day,” Pierluigi Camilli told Italian media. “I told him to be careful but he said not to worry (…) I’m proud of Simone. He had his work in his blood.” Camilli always wanted to be on the front lines, his father added.

In one of his last multimedia projects, Camilli worked with AP photographer Dan Balilty on a compelling piece depicting the 2009 Israeli bombardment in Gaza. Watch the piece below:

TIME Israel

Israel-Hamas Talks Show Changing Imperatives as Cease-Fire Nears End

Gaza Strip, Gaza City: A Palestinian look a heavy destruction in Al Shaaf neighbourhood during a 72 hours ceasefire on August 11, 2012. ALESSIO ROMENZI
A Palestinian man looks at heavy destruction during a 72 hours cease-fire in Al Shaaf neighborhood of Gaza City on Aug. 11, 2014 Alessio Romenzi for TIME

A 72-hour cease-fire is set to end Wednesday night

Almost three decades ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was the editor of a new book called Terrorism: How the West Can Win. He was then Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, and the 1986 book was part of the doctrine he was developing for himself and for Israel: We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Times have changed.

Today Israel’s negotiators are in Cairo, where they’re engaged in indirect negotiations with the militant group Hamas—as well as other Palestinian factions—in an effort to reach a cease-fire agreement to end more than a month of war in Gaza. The stakes are high, with the latest temporary cease-fire set to expire Wednesday night. The talks are part of the search for an exit strategy from Operation Protective Edge, which Israel launched on July 8 in response to a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas says it acted in retaliation for the arrests of its activists in the West Bank. But the very fact that Israel and Hamas are participating in a version of proximity talks—where the parties don’t sit in the same room but are close enough for a mediator to facilitate negotiations—shows how far both sides have come from their hardline positions.

Israel has made its stance clear: It will not negotiate with Hamas, which both Israel and the U.S. view as a terrorist organization. Hamas, for its part, doesn’t recognize Israel and calls in its charter for the destruction of the Jewish State, but has recently offered a 10-year truce, an idea that dates to the time of the Prophet Mohammed.

And yet, the two sides are talking, albeit indirectly.

Netanyahu, now Israel’s Prime Minister, has continued to emphasize that Israel sees Hamas as a force to be ostracized—in the same category as ISIS or Boko Haram, he told foreign reporters last week. Even the most pro-peace member of Netanyahu’s cabinet, Tzipi Livni, said earlier this week that giving in to Hamas’ demands would be “a signal of weakness” that would only encourage yet another round of fighting. “Nobody can afford to send a message to Hamas that those who act with terror towards civilians can get what they want,” Livni told reporters.

Rhetoric aside, though, Israel has found itself faced with two basic choices, says Dr. Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the IDC Herzilya, a university near Tel Aviv. Either continue with its military campaign, with an eye toward toppling Hamas and possibly re-occupying Gaza—a move bound to engender intense international censure as well as soaring casualty counts—or negotiate with the very people Israel says no one should recognize as legitimate. Netanyahu, Spyer notes, has decided not to go the route of regime change by force, despite pressures from hard-liners to do so. As such, there is nothing to do but to negotiate over the terms.

“If Israel decides that it’s not going to try to destroy Hamas, [it] then [has] to deal with this semi-sovereign enclave between Israel and Egypt, and you end up with a situation of ongoing conflict with a neighboring entity: a situation of no peace but now war, or maybe a war of attrition,” Spyer tells TIME. To let the war drag on indefinitely, he notes, would also be seen in Israel as a failure.

“If the Israeli communities on the border of Gaza become ghost towns, then we have a de facto disengagement from the south of Israel, and I don’t think any Israeli prime minister wants that,” he said.

The majority of Israelis who live in communities that surround the Gaza border, which have borne the brunt of more than 3,500 rocket and mortars fired at them from Gaza over the past month, have been seeking shelter in the center and north of the country. If Netanyahu wants to make good on his pledge to “bring back quiet,” there is no way to get there without doing business with Hamas.

While some analysts commend Netanyahu’s decision to choose cease-fire talks over further military action, he has also come under criticism. Writing in the New York Times, military analyst Ronen Bregman argued that the war has done “significant damage” to Israel’s deterrence. “And as much as Israel is seeking to marginalize Hamas and empower the weakened Mr. [Mahmoud] Abbas, Hamas is, for the first time in its history, on the verge of being internationally recognized as an equal party in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute,” Bregman writes.

Zvi Bar’el, a writer for the left-wing Haaretz daily newspaper, said Netanyahu’s policies have painted Israel into a corner, forcing it to negotiate with Hamas. “Israel’s insistence on viewing the Palestinian unity government as a ‘terrorist entity,’ or at the very least ‘a Hamas government,’ has actually trapped it, and once again forced it into negotiating with Hamas and Islamic Jihad while pushing Abbas into the position of an observer who is not authorized to sign an accord, should one be reached,” Bar’el writes. The end result will likely be to revive Hamas’ popularity, he predicts.

Mark Heller, an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, says the international censure coming down on Israel has steered the country’s leadership away from rhetoric around destroying Hamas, choosing a negotiated solution instead. “Israel has the ability to reoccupy Gaza and destroy Hamas, if it’s willing to pay the price, but one of the prices is the lives of troops and Israel’s international standing,” Heller says. “As Hamas still has effective control of Gaza and decides whether or not there will be firing from Gaza, the only way to pursue the possibility of a cease-fire is to speak with them.”

The latest 72-hour truce, meanwhile, expires Wednesday night—and it’s far from certain that the gaps between the two sides will be bridged before then.

TIME Middle East

U.N. Names Gaza War-Crimes Panel

Amal Alamuddin, human rights lawyer attends the 'End Sexual Violence in Conflict' summit in London June 12, 2014.
Human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin attends the End Sexual Violence in Conflict summit in London on June 12, 2014 Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

George Clooney's fiancée Amal Alamuddin was one of three tapped to investigate international-law violations in Gaza, but she says she can't join the team

Updated 5:33 p.m. ET

The U.N. named three experts to investigate possible war crimes and human-rights violations committed by both Israelis and Palestinians during the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, the organization announced Monday.

One of the members, however, British-Lebanese human-rights attorney Amal Alamuddin, says she won’t be joining the group.

“I was contacted by the UN about this for the first time this morning,” the attorney, who also happens to be George Clooney’s fiancée, said in a statement. “I am honoured to have received the offer, but given existing commitments — including eight ongoing cases — unfortunately could not accept this role. I wish my colleagues who will serve on the commission courage and strength in their endeavours.”

A Canadian international-law professor, William Schabas, will lead the panel, Reuters reports. Doudou Diène, a Senegalese lawyer who has previously worked with the U.N. on numerous cases, was also named.

The team will look at “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law … in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014” and present a report in March 2015, according to the U.N.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused Israel of violating international law in attacking U.N. safe sites, though Israel has said the U.N. is biased against the country. The U.N. has also claimed Hamas forces in Gaza violated international laws as well by indiscriminately launching rockets at Israel.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are engaged in peace talks after a recent cease-fire agreement appears to be holding. The conflict has so far seen nearly 2,000 Palestinians and 67 Israelis killed.

[Reuters]

TIME Security

Off the Battlefield, Hackers Are Waging Cyberwar Against Israel and Palestine

Hacktivist attacks against Israel quintupled as violence swept across Gaza, but are the hackers doing any damage?

Fighting in the Gaza Strip hit a lull this week as a 72-hour cease-fire ends its third and final day Thursday — but a digital war has still been raging as hackers pay little mind to the temporary truce. Cyberattacks directed against Israel have increased dramatically since it invaded Gaza in early July, intensifying last month as the violence peaked, according to a report released this week by the security research firm Arbor Networks.

Websites of Israeli civilian governmental agencies, financial services and military agencies—including the legendary intelligence agency Mossad and the Prime Minister’s office—were targeted as part of the sharp uptick in attacks that began in July, when the total number of strikes increased by 500%.

Whether those online attacks had much of an impact, however, is a subject of debate. U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) warned in an interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation late last month that cyberattacks against Israeli websites could present a risk to the country’s security. “So far I think Israel has done a great job of defending from these cyberattacks, but the sheer volume and intensity as it grows could spread from what is a conflict between Israel and Gaza to some cybereffort to try to shut these operations down, and that’s always a concern,” Rogers said.

But some experts said the attacks were doing little substantial harm against the Israeli government. The attacks are primarily targeting external, user-facing websites, perhaps increasing the time it takes to load a webpage or temporarily shutting the page down altogether by jamming up the works with bogus traffic. But the attacks have not yet affected the Israeli agencies’ internal operations, researchers said.

“To be able to do something effective against the [Israeli] government you have to be a very sophisticated hacker,” said Giora Engel, vice president of LightCyber, a security firm that provides security for Israeli government agencies. “A group of activists can’t do any damage.”

Most of the the recent and mostly harmless attacks against prominent Israeli websites are known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Carrying out a DDoS involves flooding websites or servers with traffic to deny other, legitimate users access to those websites. Hackers that conduct such attacks usually control a wide array of third-party computers which they instruct to do their bidding; the owners of those machines rarely know their devices are even involved.

The number of denial of service attacks against Israel increased from an average of 30 per day in June, before the violence began, to 150 per day in July, while the armed conflict raged on. The number of attacks peaked on July 21, with a total of 429 attacks. Researchers haven’t been able to definitively track the attacks back to any particular groups, but the timing of the incidents correlate with rising violence.

“There’s a clear increase not only in number of attacks but in the size of attacks and how long they’re lasting,” said Kirk Soluk, manager of threat intelligence and response at Arbor. “Interestingly enough, when there’s a cease-fire, the attacks seem to drop off.”

Cyber attacks have increasingly accompanied political conflicts in recent years, with actors like the Syrian Electronic Army notoriously hacking BBC News, eBay and other sites. There has also been an increase in attacks associated with recent disputes over the South China Sea.

In the case of the recent attacks against Israel, Arbor said the third-party computers used to strike Israeli government sites are scattered across the globe in countries including the U.S., Myanmar, Russia, Mexico, Great Britain, and others. However, that does not mean the attacks originated in those countries—it just means those are the locations of computers hackers have commandeered to stage attacks against Israel.

So where are the attacks coming from? One clue could be that the structure of the attacks bears a resemblance to a certain kind of attack that targeted U.S. banks en masse in 2012, Arbor said. U.S. security forces later linked those attacks to Iranian hackers. Meanwhile, the hacking group Anonymous claimed to have attacked Israeli sites, but it’s unclear if the organization is just taking credit for others’ work.

The attacks appear not just to be one-sided, however, as an Israeli civilian group called the Israeli Elite Force (IEF) has said that it’s attacking Palestinian websites. In the early days of the figthing, the IEF regularly updated its Twitter with reports of attacks on Palestinian websites, posting email addresses of what it said were login codes at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

If a cease-fire holds and violence ends, cyberattacks may dwindle in the short term, but hacking has become a permanent feature in conflicts. “Cyber has joined land, air, sea, and space as the fifth domain of modern warfare,” said Chris Petersen, the co-founder of security firm LogRhythm.

TIME Gaza

Hamas Says It Will Continue Fight After Ceasefire

An armed Hamas militant walks through a street in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City on July 20, 2014.
An armed Hamas militant walks through a street in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City on July 20, 2014. Wissam Nassar—The New York Times/Redux

“We are ready for a long war”

Hamas reiterated late Thursday that it plans to continue fighting after a temporary cease-fire ends Friday morning, if its demands are not met.

“The resistance is ready to pay the price and the people are behind the resistance,” Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, said on Hamas-run television, CNN reports. “We are ready for a long war.”

Earlier Thursday, Hamas held a public rally in Gaza City and a top Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, declared to the crowd that Hamas would continue to fight until the seven-year-old blockade on Gaza by Israel and Egypt is lifted, the Associated Press reports.

A three-day truce mediated by Egypt has largely quieted the three-week-long conflict that killed more than 1,860 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel. The truce is scheduled to end Friday at 8 a.m. local time, though representatives of Hamas and other Palestinian factions are in Cairo indirectly negotiating with Israel for a permanent ceasefire.

But hours before the ceasefire is set to end, talks have faltered, with Hamas demanding an end to the blockade and Israel saying the militants must first disarm, a condition Hamas has so far rejected.

[CNN]

TIME Israel

Cease-Fire Gives Israel, Gaza Time to Assess the Damage

Palestinians walk amid the ruins of destroyed homes in the Shujayeh neighborhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during an Israeli offensive, east of Gaza City, Aug. 6, 2014.
Palestinians walk amid the ruins of destroyed homes in the Shujayeh neighborhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during an Israeli offensive, east of Gaza City, Aug. 6, 2014. Finbarr O'Reilly—Reuters

Gaza officials say it's far too early to know the exact cost of the damage, while Israel estimates the operation cost it about $2 billion

Parts of Gaza, even to the people who lived there only days or weeks ago, are barely recognizable. Palestinians who fled neighborhoods like Shujayeh, Beit Hanoun and Rafah are having difficulty finding where their homes once stood, says Issam Younis, director of the al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza. Those parts of the Gaza Strip — from which the Israeli military says it came under fire by Hamas militants — have seen the heaviest bombardments from Israel.

“It’s almost like a tsunami has hit the region. For some people, to know where your house is, or was, is impossible because the road isn’t even there anymore,” Younis tells TIME. He estimates only 20% to 30% of the people who evacuated their homes during the fighting, or were otherwise displaced, have livable homes to which they can return. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency says 187,000 people are living in its shelters. And only in the past 48 hours have outside agencies, like the U.N. Development Programme, been able to go out and survey the damage.

“To be honest, nobody has a clear-cut figure of what the damages are because we did not have access to these areas until Tuesday,” Younis adds. “It’s a level of unprecedented destruction that we have not been able to fully calculate yet.”

Based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority has been trying to do just that — calculate the destruction. It has kept a running tally not just of the death toll (which now stands at 1,886) but of every building that Israeli forces have hit in the nearly four weeks of fighting, now on pause after a cease-fire agreement.

The list the PA provided Wednesday reads like a major earthquake hit Gaza: Demolished structures: 5,930. Partially demolished structures: 4,820. Damaged homes: 32,150. Damaged hospitals and health centers: 17 hospitals and 7 public-health clinics. (The Israel Defense Forces says that in at least one case, Islamic jihad rockets aimed at Israel fell short of their target and landed next to Gaza’s Shifa Hospital and the Shati Refugee Camp killing at least 10 Palestinians; the IDF has disputed other incidents which it says it’s investigating.)

Factor in the major infrastructure that has been damaged in Gaza over the past few weeks, including water and sewage systems, electricity lines and roads, and the figure for rehabilitation could total somewhere around $6 billion, according to PA Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa. However, Dana Erekat, the PA’s head of aid management for the Ministry of Planning, says it’s too early to give an accurate estimate of rebuilding costs. The focal point person for a technical committee made up of different PA ministries, Erekat says the PA is working on an early recovery plan, then a phase of rebuilding and, finally, redevelopment.

“This is really the day after, where we’re looking at immediate needs, like finding shelter for people who are homeless and figuring out exactly how many structures were damaged,” Erekat told TIME. “A very high-level, preliminary assessment will be ready by early September.”

Rather than contracting out any of the rebuilding to international firms, Erekat added, “we’re looking at the process to be fully owned by the government.” In other words, not only is it crucial for the shattered parts of Gaza to be rebuilt, but the very process could pave the way for re-involving the PA, led by the secular Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in the everyday lives of Gaza residents. Officials and security forces connected to Fatah were forced from Gaza in a violent coup seven years ago organized by Hamas. The PA’s presence has been almost invisible there since — PA President Mahmoud Abbas hasn’t visited the territory since before 2007, although Fatah formed a unity government with Hamas on June 2 this year.

At a press conference Wednesday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was “cooperating with the Palestinian Authority … and [we] are prepared to see a role for them [in Gaza].”

Destruction in Gaza
A Palestinian sits on a salvaged sofa outside his destroyed home in the Shujayeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City, Aug. 6, 2014. Oliver Weiken—EPA

While cease-fire talks in Cairo continue, the parties announced late Wednesday that they had agreed to extend an ongoing but temporary truce for an additional 72 hours, meaning it would expire next Monday. People on both sides of the conflict seem more than relieved. For Israelis, the truce has brought a sense of calm after almost a month of running for shelter from the nearly 2,700 rockets and mortars launched from Gaza since July 8. And for the Israeli government, the damages and compensation costs of Operation Protective Edge are likely to add up about $2 billion, the Haaretz newspaper reported, quoting an Israeli tax authority official. Israel also lost 64 soldiers in the fighting, as well as three civilians to rocket attacks.

For Gazans, however, life has changed radically and perhaps irreversibly, even for those whose homes are almost intact. Younis, for example, says he’s had one hour of electricity in the last three days. No electricity means no plumbing and no elevator, so he needs to carry jugs of water up the stairs to his fifth-floor apartment — water that he’s not even sure is clean enough to drink. When he manages to buy some diesel fuel, he powers up a small generator, which his family can use to watch television news.

“No electricity means we don’t use the refrigerator, so we must go out and buy our food day by day, and must wash our clothes by hand because there’s no electricity for the washer,” Younis says.

Younis’ three youngest children, ages 12 to 17, have ceased being regular teens. They will only sleep in the room with their parents.

“They’re scared. They ask when will we be bombarded again,” Younis says. “I’m trying to make them secure, but it’s difficult. All of Gaza is in post-trauma now.”

The biggest fear of all: not knowing whether it’s really over.

TIME Israel

Israelis Unhappy to See World-Class Military ‘Surprised’ Again

An Israeli soldier prays next to Merkava tanks at an unspecified location near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, Aug. 6, 2014.
An Israeli soldier prays next to Merkava tanks at an unspecified location near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, Aug. 6, 2014. Abir Sultan—EPA

A high Israeli troop death toll in Gaza, with inconclusive results, reminds some of a "severe sense of failure" after a 2006 ground war

Updated 10:42 a.m. E.T. on Aug. 7

Israel’s military can be fearsomely destructive. From the day in July 1967 when Israeli planes preempted an Egyptian attack by destroying Cairo’s air force on the ground, to surgical airstrikes on nuclear reactor projects in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007, the Israel Defense Forces have displayed crack intelligence and technical skill.

So why does Israel keep getting caught by surprise when it fights ground wars against its neighboring enemies?

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza over the past three weeks—more than six times the 10 lost in Israel’s 2008 incursion into the Palestinian territory. The Gaza incursion “revealed worrisome shortcomings in the Israel Defense Forces in battle readiness and management,” the Israeli daily Haaretz laments. The chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee is vowing to investigate both diplomatic and military failures, including the use of a poorly-armored personnel carrier in which seven Israeli soldiers were killed by a single missile last month. Military experts also say the IDF was generally “operating from an old playbook and [was] not fully prepared for a more sophisticated, battle-ready adversary.”

Other Israeli politicians are also asking “why the extent of the Hamas tunnel system into Israel was either not known or not prepared for better,” the New York Times reports, which adds that the tunnels were “a psychological and tactical surprise.”

Israelis may be angry and frustrated. But they shouldn’t be shocked. Israel has been here before.

Eight years ago, Israel mounted a ground offensive against Hizballah in southern Lebanon. In that operation, Israeli soldiers discovered that the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group came equipped with sophisticated weapons, training and tactics. “They are trained and highly qualified,” an Israeli soldier told the Times that year. “All of us were kind of surprised.” Israel lost 121 soldiers in that conflict, widely considered a failure that produced months of soul-searching within the country’s leadership.

Lo and behold, many of the dynamics from Lebanon in 2006 also apply to the fight in Gaza, which remains on hold at least for now under a cease-fire agreement. Israel was fighting to stop Hizballah rocket fire into its territory; the IDF’s incursion killed more than one thousand civilians; and Hizballah skillfully publicized those innocent deaths to damage Israel’s world image.

And the unhappy parallels may continue: Israel had hoped the 2006 offensive would wipe out Hizballah’s rocket arsenal and lead to a demilitarization of southern Lebanon. It didn’t happen. Seven years later, the IDF estimates Hizballah’s arsenal at a staggering 60,000 rockets. While there’s talk now of a long-term cease-fire deal that will disarm Hamas, many Israelis are understandably skeptical.

“Hamas was not defeated; the organization will remain in power in Gaza and the key partner in any future agreement. If the cease-fire leads to a lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip, Hamas may consider the heavy price worthwhile,” writes Amos Harel in Haaretz. Even so, he argues, “[t]he second-guessing now underway in Israel now “does not resemble the severe sense of failure after the Second Lebanon War.” But as Harel notes, that could change depending on what kind of lasting cease-fire deal emerges from current negotiations.

An Israeli government official is more upbeat, calling recent polls that show sky-high approval ratings for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and top military officials “a better indication of the public mood.” The official also calls a replay of the post-2006 aftermath is unlikely, given that the current regime in Egypt — which controls Gaza’s only border that does not touch Israel — has no love for Hamas and will partner with Israel to prevent the group’s rearmament. No such actor existed to clamp down on Hizballah after 2006.

Still, in Gaza this summer, Israel has been re-acquainted with the limits of its military power. (Never mind other memorably bungled Israeli operations, like the 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, or the cinematically bizarre 2007 assassination-and-revival of Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal.) Israel has again found that its intelligence is not infallible. And, while it enjoys massive military superiority over its rivals, it still faces painful limits when it fights guerilla-style groups on its borders.

Strange as it may sound, taking out an entire air force can be easier than winning a fight with a determined militant group — especially if you’ve underestimated its readiness for battle.

Updated: The original version of this story has been updated to include comments by an Israeli government official.

TIME Religion

What if Palestinians Became Israeli Citizens?

PatheosLogo_Blue

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

Dear Rabbi, Do you think there is any hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians?

“Any hope” is setting the bar quite low; we can all entertain some sliver of hope, so the answer to your question “is there ANY hope for peace” is “yes.” But I doubt peace will come the way our pundits and politicians imagine it.

They still talk about a two-state solution as if this is possible, but I have little hope that it is. Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a lose-lose scenario, and only some bold new initiative can change the status quo. Given the nature of Israeli politics, I’m not sure what that would be on the Israeli side. On the Palestinian side, however, the initiative would be Israeli citizenship.

If I were advising the Palestinians I would suggest they drop all efforts to secure a state alongside Israel, and demand full Israeli citizenship instead. I would suggest a media campaign with slogans like “Let My People In” and “Let us in or let us go.” If citizenship were granted, demographics would see Israel become a majority Palestinian state within a few generations. If it were not granted, the world would turn on Israel at it did on South Africa during the apartheid regime. The result in either case would be a democratic but no longer Jewish state. Democracy would, I imagine, lead to Islamic rule that would in time lead to Jews fearing for their lives in what was the Jewish state.

US Jews would then pressure the United States to rescue Jews from Palestine (I imagine the state would be renamed Palestine) and allow mass migration of former Israeli Jews into the United States. This may or may not work, but if it does American Jewry needs to prepare itself now to assimilate Israelis on a massive scale.

Of course I am probably wrong about all of this. Perhaps Israel will agree to withdraw to the Green Line, share Jerusalem as a capital, and repatriate Palestinian refugees; Palestine will eschew all militarization and violence, welcome the Jewish settlers in their midst with open arms as fully enfranchised citizens of Palestine, and become a secular, democratic and economic dynamo; and Hamas and the Islamic Jihad will become nonviolent social organizations helping the poorest of the poor to get into the middle class.

Or perhaps not.

A congregational rabbi for 20 years, Rabbi Rami currently co-directs One River Wisdom School and Holy Rascals Foundation.

More from Patheos:

TIME Middle East

No Easy Answers to Charges of War Crimes in Gaza

A Palestinian man enters his destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 5, 2014.
A Palestinian man enters his destroyed home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 5, 2014. Oliver Weiken—EPA

Experts on both sides say there were, but proving it will be hard and prosecuting even harder

A three-day cease-fire began in Gaza Tuesday, while Israeli and Palestinian delegations traveled to Cairo to negotiate peace.

But looming over negotiations to end the conflict is the ugly specter of war crimes, which both Israel and Hamas have been accused of committing. On July 23, Navi Pillay, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, suggested that attacks on civilians by both Israel and Hamas may have violated international law “in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

That’s no idle charge — war crimes are breaches of international humanitarian law defined by the Geneva Conventions as:

“Wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including… wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial, …taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”

Investigating and proving this is a lengthy and complex process that could take many months. Nevertheless, experts on both sides of the conflict have already drawn their own conclusions.

“It is fairly clear that Hamas has committed war crimes as a matter of systematic [authorized] policy,” says Abraham Bell, Professor of Law at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. “Hamas has used child soldiers, human shields, indiscriminate firing and weaponry incapable of discriminate firing during the conflict. It has also committed perfidy – using protective objects in an attempt to shield combatants – such as storing rockets in schools,” he adds.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-GAZA-CONFLICT
A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows the trail of a missile launched by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system as it intercepts and destroys a rocket launched from Gaza into Israel on August 4, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

Though aware Israel has been similarly accused of war crimes, Bell is unconvinced. “It’s hard to argue that there are significant war crimes going on from the Israeli point of view,” he comments. “The IDF has lawyers who accompany and advise commanders on missions.”

Israel’s detractors might argue that these legal experts could be more effective: The U.N. places the most recent death toll in Gaza at over 1,200, most of them civilians. Bell says civilian deaths are not necessarily war crimes. “You could end up with a lot of civilian casualties and have acted in accordance with the law,” he says. “It’s expected that there are going to be a lot of civilian deaths in urban warfare.”

Not on this scale, says Simon Natas, partner at ITN solicitors, who has worked with the UK-based organization Palestine Solidarity Campaign.”There are two enormously powerful inferences to draw from the extraordinarily high number of civilian casualties caused by Israel. Either it’s targeting civilians or its attempts to distinguish them from combatants is wholly inadequate,” Natas says. “Both constitute war crimes.”

“We know that Israel has directly targeted non-combatants… I don’t think there is any doubt that they deliberately attacked civilian targets such as mosques, hospitals and the Islamic University in Gaza,” he says.

Natas further claims that the extensive shelling — which, he says, “has characterized this conflict” — is the real “indiscriminate firing” Bell accuses Hamas of carrying out. “There are vast areas where all houses have been flattened,” Natas says. “It’s simply not possible to repeatedly fire these types of shells and not risk disproportionate civilian casualties.”

Though Israel says it warns civilians of attacks by dropping leaflets, leaving pre-recorded messages, and firing warning missiles, Natas is unimpressed. “A civilian is entitled to say ‘I want to remain in my home’ and it doesn’t mean they can be killed for exercising that right.”

Natas concedes that Hamas, too, fires indiscriminately at Israeli civilian areas but adds: “They don’t have the sophisticated technology to only hit military targets… they use extremely primitive weapons.” That lack of discrimination is not deliberate, he says, but due to a technical lack of control when retaliating against a more powerful, national military. That militant organizations can be accused of war crimes when they’re forced to resort to crude weaponry for self-defense, he says, is “an issue that international law needs to get to grips with.”

Accusations of war crimes are easy to come by, but prosecutions of them are not. While the UN Human Rights Council conducted a war crimes inquiry into a three-week conflict in Gaza in 2008-9 that concluded there had been serious violations on both sides, it had no powers of enforcement. For prosecution to actually go ahead, the domestic country must first have investigated its own conduct.

Natas says that Israel’s analysis of its own actions during war has never been carried out with sufficient rigor or impartiality, and believes it will be much the same after Operation Protective Edge. So, he says, “two NGOs in Gaza – al-Mezan and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights – will be impartially collecting evidence of war crimes along with the U.N.”

Though Natas says the Gazan NGOs will also report on any crimes committed by Hamas, Bell says the militant group won’t carry out an internal investigation into its own conduct either. “A terrorist organization is not going to investigate its own war crimes,” he says.

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinians remove pieces of rubble from a house hit by an Israeli airstrike in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on August 4, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

Once the internal process has been completed, the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.) can intervene if it thinks the process has been unsatisfactory. However, the court doesn’t have jurisdiction in Israel or in Palestine, meaning that it can’t prosecute them without U.N. Security Council referral.

Israel refused to ratify the I.C.C.’s treaty, the Rome Statute, in 1998, and though Palestine is keen to join the treaty after being declared a non-member state by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012, Natas says it’s under pressure from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. to stay away lest it tries to prosecute Israeli officials. The U.S. also voted against making Palestine a non-member state.

Two other options remain. The U.N.’s Security Council can request an I.C.C. investigation or an independent country that has universal jurisdiction can prosecute individuals for war crimes. Universal jurisdiction is possessed by 166 states, who, according to Amnesty International, “have defined one or more of four crimes under international law (war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and torture) as crimes in their national law.”

Both Natas and Bell agree that the former looks unlikely. Bell thinks the U.N. Security Council won’t target a Palestinian military group whilst Natas says that the U.S., Israel’s strongest ally and a permanent member of the council, would veto any attempt to take Israeli officials to the I.C.C.

However, prosecution of Israel or Hamas could still happen in one of those 166 states. “It remains a distinct possibility that the prosecutions could happen in another country,” says Natas. “It’s just a question of them having the will and the political power.”

Any attempt to prosecute either party would cause huge international ramifications, but it likely wouldn’t come any time soon. Any war crimes inquiry would need to come after the conflict has drawn to a lasting halt, and a domestic investigation has been carried out — and right now, less than a day into a shaky cease-fire, what everyone is hoping for is peace.

TIME Religion

Behind British Minister of Faith Sayeeda Warsi’s Resignation Over Gaza

Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, British Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 10, 2013.
Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, British Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 10, 2013. T. Mughal—EPA

Her choice is bold and dramatic, and it sends a strong statement that political will requires moral courage.

Politicians don’t often quit out of principle. They especially do not quit out of moral principle. But, on the rare occasion that they do, it is dramatic.

That’s what happened Tuesday morning, when Sayeeda Warsi, the United Kingdom’s first Minister of Faith and the first Muslim to serve as a Cabinet minister, resigned in protest of her government’s approach to the crisis in Gaza. “For some weeks, in meetings and discussions, I have been open and honest about my views on the conflict in Gaza and our response to it,” she wrote in her resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, which she posted on Twitter. “My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”

Cameron replied in a statement, thanking her for her work and regretting her decision. “Our policy has always been consistently clear–the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we’ve urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire,” he said.

At first glance, one might assume that this story is simply “Muslim minister resigns over U.K. support for Israel.” Warsi is, after all, the first Muslim to serve in so high a position, and soon after her resignation, she called for an immediate arms embargo against Israel in an interview with the Huffington Post UK.

But that’s almost certainly too simplistic an understanding of what happened. Warsi has built her professional career on a foundational principle that religious and historic divides do not necessitate irreconcilable divisions or violence. She made it her mission to help create a government that, as she often said, would “do God” and advocate for faith’s place in society. That meant working for people of all faiths. She spoke out against Islamophobia and worked to make sure British government was inclusive for Muslims. In 2012 she let the U.K.’s largest ministerial delegation to the Vatican. Last year she came to Washington, DC, to speak out against the global persecution of Christians. One of her main goals was to encourage the international community to develop a cross-faith, cross-continent commitment to protect Christian minorities. Religious persecution, she told me at the time, is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. “It is about working up the political will,” she said. “It is about getting some consensus, it is about politicians being prepared to take on these difficult challenges.”

Her personal faith story is also one that bridges divides often thought to be unbridgeable. She is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants and grew up in a Muslim family with a blended theological background that included both Shias and Sunnis. “We were taught to respect and love other faiths as much as we loved our own, and I suppose, you know, quite strong teachings that you can only truly be a Muslim if you also are Christian and Jewish before that, that actually Islam is just an extension of the other faiths and it has been a process where various books have been revealed at various times,” she told me. “I don’t see there is a collision course between people of faith, I actually do think it is instinctively based up on the same values.”

Her whole story is rooted in commitment to a higher calling. It makes her decision to resign is all the more dramatic, and it sends a strong statement that political will requires moral courage. “I always said that long after life in politics I must be able to live with myself for the decision I took or the decisions I supported,” she said in her resignation letter. “By staying in Government at this time I do not feel I can be sure of that.”

She may have resigned, but that does not mean her voice has been silenced: it may be louder as a result.

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