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Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, changing the demographic composition of an occupied territory is considered a violation of international humanitarian law and classified as a war crime.

The establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank changed the demographic composition of the area.

Has there ever been an attempt to charge Israel, or its officials, with a war crime on this ground?

ref IV GENEVA CONVENTION (pdf)

ARTICLE 49. -DEPORTATIONS, TRANSFERS. EVACUATIONS

...

The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.

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    You can't charge a country with a war crime. I'm guessing you're asking if any Israeli (government officials etc.) have been so charged. OTOH the settlements have been declared illegal according to that convention in e.g. UNSCR 2334. Sep 20, 2023 at 14:17
  • @Fizz lol it's always about "war crimes". these people don't comprehend the only way to enforce any sort of "war crimes" is to invade a nation and use violence or threat of violence. Who's going to do that just because some western radicals hate Israel? Nobody...
    – SnakeDoc
    Sep 22, 2023 at 17:16

2 Answers 2

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Question:

Has there ever been an attempt to charge Israel with a war crime for changing the demography of the occupied Palestinian West Bank?

I will limit my answer to 1 recent ongoing attempt.

After a five year preliminary study an International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said on December 20, 2019, “There is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”

International Criminal Court moves closer to investigation of Israel

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda designated the alleged crimes she wants to investigate:

  • Three incidents in which the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) allegedly committed war crimes by intentionally launching disproportionate attacks during the 2014 Gaza war.
  • Alleged war crimes committed by Hamas and other Palestinians terror organizations by intentionally directing attacks against civilians and using civilians as human shields during the 2014 Gaza war.
  • Alleged war crimes by Israeli officials who were involved in the transfer of Israeli civilians into the West Bank since June, 2014.
  • The IDF's use of lethal means — beginning in March, 2018 against protesters near the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The jurisdiction of the ICC and it's ability to legally operate in the occupied territories was challenged on the grounds that Palestine does not meet the criteria of an independent sovereign state. Also on the grounds that any such investigation and prosecution would be political in nature and not based on international law.

On February 5, 2021, An ICC 3 justice panel ruled it did have jurisdiction in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. The decision. Finding that Palestine as a signatory and member of the Rome Statute it met the criteria of an independent state. Also finding there were applicable international laws. (see the decision starting page 26).

Israel has rejected this finding and has stated they will ignore the decision. Israel does not have the ability to appeal, because it is not a member of the ICC.

To date no such trial or further discussion of charges has taken place. This is due to procedural roadblocks and pressure brought by Israel and the United States to delay both, according to the below article.

as of Sep 12, 2023:

The International Criminal Court’s Failure to Hold Israel Accountable

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    Amnesty International is pretty clear on its take on article 49 and the settlements. Not saying they are always fair and balanced, but... Sep 20, 2023 at 19:58
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    It makes little difference if the ICC asserts that it has jurisdiction over the occupied territories, because it has no ability to enact or enforce its rulings in those territories.
    – Mike Scott
    Sep 21, 2023 at 7:18
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    @MikeScott It doesn't need to enforce anything in those territories. If it asserts that it has jurisdiction over those territories then it can issue an arrest warrant against those it thinks committed war crimes in those territories, and all signatures has to comply.
    – Mocas
    Sep 21, 2023 at 8:10
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    @Joshua Preventing a person from travelling to 123 countries without risk of arrest is quite far removed from "nothing".
    – JBentley
    Sep 22, 2023 at 12:40
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    @Joshua That's a straw man argument. We're talking about whether ICC has jurisdiction to lawfully do something. They do. Whether a country will choose for political reasons to obey their legal obligations is a separate matter. In practice, this kind of thing does amount to something even in cases where it is politically sensitive. See for example Putin's recently cancelled visit to South Africa which was caused by an arrest warrant. That should be sufficient proof that such actions by the ICC can't be dismissed as "nothing"; they have real consequences.
    – JBentley
    Sep 22, 2023 at 14:14
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Just a minor nit since it doesn't answer whether Israel has been charged or not, but it is not obvious that what Israel is doing is against your quoted article. Deportation and transfers from that article may very well be talking about forced transfers, such as in the Soviet Union.

The Israelis who move to the West Bank do so under their free will (and sometimes even against the wished of the Israeli government). Even with Palestinians, Israel's method typically involves using technicalities, such as if you leave you can't return. But I don't recall any (recent, government-sanctioned) mass deportation of Palestinian communities.

Obviously a good enough lawyer could argue that Israel is or isn't guilty of war crimes, but it is not that clear.

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    I doubt that. I found the article 49 full text and edited the post. Much of the rest of 49 has to do with what's being done to the existing, indigenous, population. The particular quote talks about the occupier's population and doesn't the look the same in the text - by look the same I mean the other bits have things like "military necessity". This doesn't, nor does it qualify that the transfers have to be force. So the fact that settlers move there under their free will doesn't modify the article. Why would it, if the goal is to oppose land acquisition? "Hey, I wanted to steal" Sep 21, 2023 at 16:37
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    Hard time finding the 49 full text it too. IHCR gets linked all the time, but it's fancy schmancy website doesn't serve it up. I think the only way to read all of 49 is to follow my link to a massive PDF. Then to search it, you may need a desktop browser. Sep 21, 2023 at 16:40

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