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ImpACT International | The US must comply with international law and its own Leahy Act

The US must comply with international law and its own Leahy Act

US police are considering using surveillance and aviation technology from the Israeli Company High Lander, which is used in the occupied Palestinian territories.

On May 20, 2024, ICC Prosecutor Karim AA Khan issued requests for the arrest warrants of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on “reasonable grounds for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” including for “intentionally directing of attacks on a civilian population”, “extermination and/or murder” and “intentionally causing great suffering”. Yet the United States continues to provide political and material support, recently confirming a new $1 billion sale of arms and ammunition to Israel as the country continues its invasion of the Gaza Strip. It is also involved import Israeli technology, often military technology, that has been tried and tested in the occupied Palestinian territories since October 7, especially in illegal settlements. Israel is among the ten most prominent military exporters in the world, with the US importing 69% of its goods.

One such technology is Israeli company High Lander’s Orion system, which allows users to control hundreds of drones simultaneously without direct user input. This technology has been used by the Israeli Ministry of Defense in settlements and is now being considered by US police forces for surveillance and crime fighting, because marked by High Lander founder Alon Ableson.

This practice is part of a broader trend in which Israel uses Palestinian territories as testing grounds for advanced military technologies. This “Combat proven” products, including Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 drones that were used extensively during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, are being marketed worldwide. These drones have been sold to more than 20 countries, including the US and UK, and are being promoted based on their effectiveness in Gaza and the West Bank.

The Israeli drone Heron TP, produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has also been used extensively in Gaza and Lebanon before being exported to countries such as Germany and the US. These technologies, marketed as efficient and reliable because of their use in actual combat situations, essentially commodify the suffering and lives of Palestinians for international gain.

US investments in Israeli military technology raise significant human rights concerns. The U.S. State Department recently found five Israeli military units responsible for gross human rights violations, yet these units remain eligible for U.S. military assistance due to ongoing recovery efforts. These findings are underscored by impACT and fellow human rights organizations who document serious humanitarian consequences resulting from Israeli military actions, including restrictions on humanitarian assistance to Gaza, which are causing significant hardship and suffering.

In addition, Israeli actions in Gaza have been widely condemned for violating several human rights laws, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits attacks on the civilian population and requires the protection of civilians during conflict. Since October 7, we have witnessed more than 36,000 deaths.

As mentioned, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has accused Israel of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, such as ‘intentionally targeting a civilian population’, ‘extermination and/or murder’ and ‘intentionally causing great suffering’. . The arbitrary denial of humanitarian aid and essential supplies to Gaza violates international humanitarian law because it imposes collective punishment on the civilian population, exacerbating their suffering and violating their basic human rights.

The role of companies, especially those involved in the defense sector, in this ongoing conflict is deeply troubling. Companies like High Lander, Elbit Systems and IAI are taking advantage of the ongoing cycle of violence by supplying military technologies tested in occupied territories. These companies are complicit in the violence by enabling and profiting from the military actions that perpetuate the conflict. Their technologies are not just tools of war, but tools that enforce and worsen the occupation and contribute to the systemic human rights abuses faced by Palestinians.

Using Gaza and the West Bank as testing grounds for military technology treats the country and its people merely as test subjects in a living experiment. This not only dehumanizes the Palestinian population, but also normalizes the use of military force against civilians, undermining international humanitarian laws designed to protect innocent lives. The importation of these technologies by countries like the US, in the midst of an ongoing genocide, indicates a willingness to overlook the ethical implications in favor of technological and military advantage. This not only perpetuates the cycle of violence, but also erodes the US’s moral standing in advocating human rights and international law.

In conclusion, the US role in financing and importing Israeli military technology not only fuels the ongoing violence in Palestine, but also violates international human rights standards. To mitigate these impacts, comprehensive policy changes and strict enforcement of existing laws are essential.

First, the US must rigorously and immediately enforce the Leahy Act, which it authored. The Leahy Act bans military assistance to foreign security forces involved in gross human rights violations. This includes suspending all military assistance to Israeli units identified by the US State Department and international agencies for their involvement in atrocities in Gaza.

Second, the United States must support and fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity in occupied Palestine. This involves shifting political and financial support from Israeli military initiatives to international legal bodies, ensuring that justice and accountability are prioritized over strategic alliances.

Finally, the US should implement stricter due diligence checks on imported technologies. This includes a thorough assessment process to ensure that companies providing these technologies do not engage in practices that violate international human rights law. Such measures will prevent the import of military technologies tested on occupied populations and used to sustain conflict and oppression.

Enforcing this policy would represent an important step in aligning U.S. foreign policy with its professed commitment to human rights and international law. It would also send a strong message that the US will not tolerate the exploitation and suffering of the civilian population due to technological and military advances.

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