More than 800 serving officials in the US and Europe have signed a statement warning that their own governments’ policies on the Gaza war could amount to “grave violations of international law”.

In the latest sign of significant levels of dissent within the governments of some of Israel’s key allies, the officials say their administrations risk being complicit in “one of the worst human catastrophes of this century”.

The statement, a copy of which was passed to the BBC, mentioned that the officials expressed their professional concerns internally but have been “overruled by political and ideological considerations”.

A US official with over 25 years’ national security experience, who signed the statement, told the BBC about the “continued dismissal” of their concerns, claiming “the voices of those who understand the region and the dynamics were not listened to”.

Statement warns their govts of being complicit in ‘one of the worst human catastrophes of the century’

“What’s really different here is we’re not failing to prevent something, we’re actively complicit. That is fundamentally different from any other situation I can recall,” added the official.

The statement, signed by civil servants from the US, the EU and 11 European countries including the UK, France and Germany, says Israel has shown “no boundaries” in its military operations in Gaza, “which has resulted in tens of thousands of preventable civilian deaths; and… the deliberate blocking of aid… putting thousands of civilians at risk of starvation and slow death”.

There was a plausible risk that our governments’ policies were “contributing to grave violations of international law, war crimes and even ethnic cleansing or genocide”, it warned.

The identities of signatories have not been made public and the BBC believes that nearly half are officials, each having at least a decade of experience in government.

One retired US ambassador told the BBC that the coordination by dissenting civil servants in multiple governments was unprecedented. “It’s unique in my experience watching foreign policy in the last 40 years,” said former ambassador Robert Ford. “The problems with the Gaza war are so serious and the implications are so serious that they feel compelled to go public,” he said.

The officials argue the current nature of their governments’ military, political or diplomatic support for Israel “without real conditions or accountability” not only risks further Palestinian deaths, but also regional stability.

“Israel’s military operations have disregarded all important counterterrorism expertise gained since 9/11… the [military] operation has not contributed to Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas and has instead strengthened the appeal of Hamas, Hezbollah and other negative actors.”

The statement suggests that while Israel’s military operation has caused unprecedented destruction of lives and property in Gaza, there appears to be no workable strategy to effectively tackle Hamas, nor for a political solution to ensure Israel’s security in the longer run. It calls for the US and European governments to “stop asserting to the public that there is a strategic and defensible rationale behind the Israeli operation”.

Published in Dawn, February 3rd, 2024

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