From Dachau to Gaza

“We have public relations people in the United States who take care of these matters for us.” Three Israeli lawyers after conceding that Israel was involved in war crimes.

By Francis Boyle.

During the summer of 1982 I had the opportunity to visit the Nazi concentration camp just outside Dachau , Germany and then the little town itself. Given the proximity of the town to the camp, my immediate reaction was: “This town is so close to the camp that the citizens of Dachau must have known what was going on out there. Why did they not do anything about it?” I had the exact same reaction during the last two weeks of May 1986 as I traveled up and down the West Bank and Gaza Strip in order to investigate Israel ’s atrocities and war crimes against the Palestinians.

When I then complained about these reprehensible practices to the appropriate high-level legal officials sequentially at the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was told that they were all required by and could be justified under the doctrine of “military necessity.” Rather than engaging in an extended debate over this point, I simply responded to all three of these lawyers that this was precisely the argument used by the Nazi war criminals before the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945 to justify their own incredible outrages upon humanity, including the Jewish people. After a bit more argumentation, these three lawyers basically conceded my Nuremberg analysis, but then each independently, uncannily, and matter-of-factly informed me: “We have public relations people in the United States who take care of these matters for us.”

Even more distressingly, upon a visit to the office of the Legal Adviser to the Foreign Ministry to discuss the prospects for peace, I was immediately informed by him that Israel had a “claim” under international law to the West Bank : it might not constitute the basis for perfect title, but it was nevertheless a “claim.” At the time I recalled the fact that of course Hitler had a “claim” to the Sudetenland as well. Although the Munich Pact of 1938 permitted German occupation and annexation of the Sudetenland into the Nazi Reich, this act of cowardice by Great Britain and France ultimately paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War one year later, with all the tragic consequences that conflagration entailed for the Jewish people, among others.

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