In April 1996, Israeli artillery shells rained down on a United Nations compound where hundreds of civilians were taking refuge. As the shells exploded and the building collapsed, 106 civilians died and another 116 were injured.
The attack, now known as the Qana Massacre, was part of a larger Israeli offensive known as Operation Grapes of Wrath, a 16-day campaign of aggression in southern Lebanon.
The United Nations investigated the Qana Massacre and determined the Israeli shelling was deliberate. Then-UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghani condemned the attack, writing it was “all the more serious because civilians, including women and children, had sought refuge” in the compound the Israelis destroyed.
The commander of the unit that launched the assault was a man named Naftali Bennett, who’d go on to boast, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.”
Bennett, of course, is now Israel’s prime minister. And on August 25, he arrived for a visit at the White House.
When President Biden took office, he promised to pursue a foreign policy based on human rights and the “rules-based international order.”
Those commitments already seemed at odds with the long-running U.S. support for Israel. Whether it’s giving Israel nearly $4 billion in military aid every year or providing diplomatic protection at the United Nations, the United States allows Israel to act with impunity even after repeated instances of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
But Biden’s promise to put human rights and international law first seem especially at odds with supporting a government like Bennett’s. Bennett’s war criminal past is troubling enough, but his current positions flout international law – and longstanding US support for a two-state solution – just as aggressively.