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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Putting Israel's self-defense into context

Someone sent me the following quote - allegedly from US News.com - but I could not find it there:
Dresden, Berlin, 21000 German civilians killed in retaliation for failed V2 missile attempts on London, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Sarajevo recently, all were unfortunate but none were disproportionate. As both Churchill and Truman remarked, they saved their soldiers lives, and they slept like babies without any regret. The most significnant harm being done to the citizens of Gaza is western media telling them that Gaza is some sort of exception to western rules of law, and if one shoots 3000 missiles at a major nation state they will not retaliate with force designed to end the threat. They are good people, as were the German and Japanese citizens, and deserve to know this sort of military response will rain down upon them if they continue to "look the other way" while 150 miles of military tunnels are excavated under their homes. Only 4% of Germans were members of the Nazi party, less than 10% of Germany was left standing in 1945. (usnews.com)
It's a good quote - I wish I knew who wrote it. But while I was searching for it, I found this piece by Louis Rene Beres which is simply excellent.
From the standpoint of pertinent international law, these criticisms are sorely mistaken. The legal standard of proportionality in the law of armed conflict has nothing to do with equal levels of suffering. If it did, virtually all major allied military operations during World War II would have been flagrantly "disproportionate."
Properly legal determinations of proportionality can never be made in an historical or geopolitical vacuum. Instead, they must always take into account the decipherable extent to which an adversary (especially a terrorist adversary, whose every action is illegal by definition) has committed prior or ongoing violations of the law of war.
In the case of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and also “moderate” Fatah, there is incontestable evidence that these terrorists are systematically guilty of perfidy, a specific and egregious violation of the law of war involving, in this particular case, deceptions that knowingly endanger noncombatant populations. Once again, with very little objection from the "international community," Palestinian "freedom fighters" have been firing intentionally at vulnerable Israeli civilians from Gaza schools and hospitals. As for heroic Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, he prefers conspicuous safety in Qatar, to becoming a shahid, or martyr. Palestinian martyrdom is reserved by Hamas for Gaza's endlessly manipulated and impoverished masses, those who are most plainly unable to migrate to the more pleasingly wealthy Arab oil states.
Deception can be acceptable in armed conflict, but portions of the law of war, specifically the Hague Conventions, still disallow placement of civilians among military assets or personnel. Further prohibition of perfidy can be found in the protocols added to the Geneva Conventions in 1977. These incontrovertible rules are also binding on the basis of customary international law, which is included in the authoritative inventory of legal sources defined at Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
Perfidy is identified as a “grave breach” of the law of war at Article 147 of Geneva Convention No. IV. The effect of perfidy committed by all Palestinian terrorists in Gaza – especially their widespread resort to human shields – is to immunize Israel from legal responsibility for any counter-terrorist harms done to Arab civilians. Even if Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Fatah did not deliberately engage in perfidy, any terrorist-created link between civilians and insurgent warfare would still grant Israel full justification for defensive military actions.
Israel should not be granted a free hand in its applications of armed force any more than any state should. But the reasonableness of these particular applications should always be evaluated against the specific background of unreconstructed Palestinian perfidy.
Viewed against the landscape of extensive and unapologetic terrorist crimes in Gaza, Israel is not guilty of “disproportionality.”

Read the whole thing

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At 11:30 PM, Blogger Marjorie said...

Your first quotation is the first comment at the end of Beres's article. Its author, Gary Pickholz, has a Facebook page with discussion about related topics. He lives in Tel Aviv.

At 12:48 AM, Blogger imthatguy said...

"The concept of a proportionate response in war is not only mind boggling, but, if employed by a state, also a complete abdication of that state's most fundamental responsibility to its citizens. It is without any virtue other than appeasing outsiders who have different interests and incentives regarding the result of a specified armed conflict.

It is also only a recipe for continued hostility in the future against an aggressor that is given the luxury of placing a cap on its downside before engaging in conflict with you. That's why no self respecting country in the history of this earth that had the military capacity to do so has confronted a real attack on its citizens (or soldiers, for that matter) with a proportionate response, nor would any other country ever seriously be asked to do so, other than the State of Israel."


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