In September 2022, commanders of the Israeli Occupying Forces were authorized to use armed drones to kill Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Marjorie Cohn reported for Truthout. Hamas called the order “a dangerous step” and urged Palestinians “to continue resisting the Israeli occupation with all means possible until they regain their legitimate rights,” Cohn reported.
The Israeli Air Force has been targeting Palestinians in Gaza with drones as far back as 2008, but the new policy allows for the first use of armed drones in the occupied West Bank. The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Air Force drone squadrons “fly about 80% of the air force’s flight hours.”
Israel justifies its policy of targeting members of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad by labeling them as “terrorists” if they are armed or deemed to pose an imminent threat to Israeli troops. However, as Cohn reported, Israel has “no right of self-defense against the people whose land it occupies. The Fourth Geneva Convention says that an occupying power has a legal duty to protect the occupied.”
Journalists reporting Palestine risk not only their jobs but also their lives to do so. Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was in the Jenin refugee camp reporting on a mass arrest raid when she was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper. Cohn reports that this occurred just days after Palestinian journalism organizations and human rights advocates filed a complaint in the International Criminal Court (ICC) protesting Israel’s targeting of journalists.
The killing of journalists engaged in reporting from war zones or occupied territories is a war crime under the Rome Statute ICC. The Israeli government has denied responsibility for Abu Akleh’s death, asserted that the reporter was killed by a stray bullet during defensive gunfire. In an article published by Al Jazeera, Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Abu Akleh’s family stated that the killing of journalists such as Abu Akleh was “fosters impunity for the injustices that they are seeking to cover.”
Israel is left unchecked for these crimes by its own High Court of Justice (HJC). Ishai Menuchin, executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel explains in Cohn’s book, Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues, “The HJC effectively legalizes almost every act committed by Israel’s security forces.” Cohn goes on to state that another enabler is the US government, which provides Israel $3.8 billion in military assistance annually. The Biden administration has failed to condemn the actions by the Israeli military and the killing of Abu Akleh. As Cohn concludes, “Neither Israel nor the U.S. government and its corporate media will tolerate any criticism of the illegal Israeli occupation.”
As of November 2022, the corporate media have failed to report on the issue of Israel’s weaponized drones in the West Bank. It was mentioned in 972 magazine, The Middle East Monitor, The New Arab, and The Palestine Chronicle. Other news sources like the Jerusalem Post and IMEMC reported on it, but as a defensive strategy. Corporate media have reported the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, but have typically aligned with Israel in treating it as an accidental death.
Marjorie Cohn, “Israel Authorizes Military to Kill Palestinians With Drones in the West Bank,” Truthout, October 13, 2022.
“Shireen Abu Akleh’s Family Submits Complaint to ICC,” Al Jazeera, September 20, 2022.
Student Researcher: Vikki Vasquez (California State University, East Bay)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)