A retired Army Lt. Col. blasted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s accusations against Israel committing war crimes in an interview with Fox News Digital on Tuesday, saying members of Congress "bear an obligation to ensure that before they accuse soldiers and pilots" of committing said crimes, "they understand what the law is that dictates that accusation."
On Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. appeared on MSNBC’s "The Mehdi Hasan Show" and insisted that she was not defending Hamas as she accused Israel of committing war crimes, and defended her position of calling for a ceasefire following Hamas’ attack against Israel on Oct. 7.
When asked whether Israel had a right to defend itself, she argued that "war crimes" are not the appropriate response.
"War crimes do not constitute and are not an appropriate response for other war crimes. Hamas’ hostage taking, their hostage taking of children, of the disabled, elderly civilians, are a war crime," Ocasio-Cortez said. "But when we are talking about the blockading of water, food, electricity to a population of 2.2 million Palestinians, it is unacceptable to think that 1,700 Palestinian children alone, that their deaths will somehow make up for, or justify, the violence of what we saw on Oct. 7."
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. ( Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images/File)
The progressive "Squad" member went on to accuse Israel of committing an "indiscriminate bombing campaign" against Gaza and questioned the effectiveness of its recent actions.
The congressional representative did not immediately respond to inquiries from Fox News Digital on the matter.
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Corn, who is the George R. Killam Jr. Chair of Criminal Law at Texas Tech University School of Law and previously served as the Gary A. Kuiper Distinguished Professor of National Security Law at South Texas College of Law in Houston after serving in the U.S. Army for 21 years as an officer, and retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2004.
The bulk of Corn’s time in the Army was as a JAG officer, aka Judge Advocate General's Corps. He is also an advisor for the Jewish Institute of National Security for America and has studied legal issues related to conflicts in Israel.
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Palestinians walk amid the rubble of destroyed and damaged buildings by Israeli airstrikes in the city center of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, Oct. 10. (Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Corn said he understands why anyone would be sympathetic to the Palestinian population and the civilians in Gaza who are caught up in the conflict, as well as how images of combat destruction and casualties could evoke a sense of empathy.
But what he said he does not understand are those quick to judge and accuse Israel of war crimes without knowing the facts and circumstances related to the attacks.
After hearing the comments from the Ocasio-Cortez, Corn said, two things jumped out. The first thing was that she acknowledged the conduct of Hamas terrorists Oct. 7 were war crimes, yet failed to acknowledge that 8,000 rockets have been fired indiscriminately at Israel since that date.
"Every time one of those rockets is fired, it is a war crime because the law of war doesn’t focus on whether you kill civilians. It focuses on the fact that you’re trying to kill civilians," he said.
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Rockets are launched by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, in Gaza, Oct. 7. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
The second thing that jumped out is the characterization of the consequences of combat operations as collective punishment.
He said, "collective punishment" is a phrase being tossed around that is "simply erroneous," because it requires an intent to inflict collective suffering on the population because of something that happened to your forces.
"Collective consequences of combat is not the same thing as collective punishment, and the prohibition on collective punishment is more focused," Corn said.
He explained that during World War II, the Germans would have a soldier killed by the French resistance, and in retribution, they would round up 50 civilians and execute them as a collective sanction.
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Smoke plumes along the Gaza-Israel border on Oct. 7. (Gallo Images/Orbital Horizon/Copernicus Sentinel Data 2023)
"There’s no indication that the Israeli military operations are directed for that purpose," Corn said. "Instead, they’re directed to destroy Hamas combat capability as a legitimate exercise of self-defense."
But the most troubling aspect, he said, of Ocasio-Cortez’s accusation is that it is "factually and legally invalid."
"I think for somebody in a position of a member of Congress, they bear an obligation to ensure that before they accuse soldiers and pilots of committing war crimes, that they understand what the law is that dictates that accusation," Corn said. "The fact that civilian casualties are inflicted during combat operations does not prove the commission of war crimes."
Expanding on the subject, Corn said war crimes in combat are established by proving either that an attack was deliberately directed against civilians — which he said what Hamas has been doing, but not the IDF — or that an attack on the military objective is conducted in a way that is inherently indiscriminate because the anticipated civilian harm will be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage derived from the attack.
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Unless a person knows what the value of the target was, the efforts the IDF went through to verify the true nature of the target, the precautionary measures IDF implemented to mitigate civilian risk, the way Hamas abused the civilian population to shield the target from attack, and other factors, Corn said a person cannot make a credible accusation against Israel for committing war crimes.
"This is the problem of what I've called ‘effects-based condemnations,’ where you look at the effects of an attack, and you immediately assume that the party that caused the destruction must have committed a war crime, and it's legally and factually invalid," he said. "Candidly, it's quite disappointing that a member of our Congress would make that allegation. And it also demeans the integrity and the honor of the IDF combatants who, in my opinion and based on my experience, are actually trying much harder than their enemy to take measures that mitigate the risks to the civilian population."
Fox News Digital's Lindsay Kornick contributed to this report.
Greg Wehner is a breaking news reporter for Fox News Digital.