Home / Defense / IDF Use Of Only ‘White’ Phosphorus Prompts Charges Of Racism

IDF Use Of Only ‘White’ Phosphorus Prompts Charges Of Racism

“We should not be to surprised, given what this organization has previously documented about Israel.”

Al Jazeera, via Wikimedia Commons

Al Jazeera, via Wikimedia Commons

Oslo, July 26 – Human rights activists monitoring Israeli military actions are calling the Jewish State’s deployment of white phosphorus during conflicts in Lebanon and Gaza a manifestation of racism, as no other colors of phosphorus appear in the IDF arsenal.

While no documented cases of white phosphorus use by the Israeli military have been recorded by human rights groups since 2009, the activists insist the blatant discrimination inherent in selecting that weapon over other options must still be addressed.

“It raises unpleasant questions about the motives and considerations behind the IDF’s use of white phosphorus, beyond the substance’s other concerns,” asserted Neville Gazing of Amnesty International. “Not yellow, red, or any shade of brown phosphorus, but only white phosphorus in round after round of artillery or tank fire. This smacks of the most primitive and blatant form of racism, but I suppose we should not be to surprised, given what this organization has previously documented about Israel.”

Gazing referred to the IDF’s use of white phosphorus in built-up areas where civilians were present, as the substance can cause severe burning and toxicity. It is not, however, clearly barred from use under international law even in such areas, where the chemical’s smoke-producing concealment properties and tracer capabilities to track fire trajectories make it necessary. The new claims, however, focus not on white phosphorus’s physical effects, but its color.

“Critics have previously taken the IDF to task for using white phosphorus when other, less lethal options were available for the same purposes,” observed Hacken Mitchainek of Human Rights Watch. “We have similar criticisms now – that any other shade of phosphorus could have been selected, but Israel chose repeatedly to use white phosphorus and only white phosphorus. That pattern of decisions speaks volumes about the mentality of Israel’s military leadership.”

The human rights groups intend to call attention to similar exclusive uses of white phosphorus munitions by other militaries. “In addition to examining Israeli use of white phosphorus in Lebanon in 2006, we will soon turn our attention to the suspicious lack of other varieties of phosphorus munitions in Iraq in 2004, by the US Army,” stated Mitchainek. “We will also look at cases in Afghanistan, where the US claims it uses white phosphorus to illuminate the battelfield – and we wonder why it is always, without exception, white phosphorus.”

Mitchainek predicted that his organization’s investigations would simply not have the time or resources to examine the use of white phosphorus munitions by the Taliban, Russia, or other non-Western military groups.

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