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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Geneva Convention doesn't shield Lebanon

The Washington Post gives an outlet to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora today, continuing a tradition of giving a forum to any Arab politician who wants to take his troubles out on Israel. Siniora obliges as one might expect.

Siniora, who heads a government in which the Hezbullah terrorist group is a member, and who leads a country in which 35-40% of the population supported that terrorist group even before the current hostilities began, accuses Israel of violating the Geneva Convention, and calls on the world to ensure "that Israel be made to respect international humanitarian law, including the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, which it has repeatedly and willfully violated." Siniora has not a clue of what he speaks.

Article 28 of the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949 is simple and clear. It says: " The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations." Hezbullah violates this provision daily. It is due to Hezbullah's violations of this provision that Lebanese civilians are being killed.

In an article published on the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com web page over the weekend, Orde F. Kittrie, a professor of international law at Arizona State University and who served in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. State Department from 1993 to 2003, summarized the three-part test in determining whether Israeli actions violate the Geneva Convention:
International law has three major prohibitions .... One forbids deliberate attacks on civilians. Another prohibits hiding forces in civilian areas, thereby turning civilians into "human shields." A third prohibition, the proportionality restriction that Israel is accused of violating, involves a complicated and controversial balancing test.
Ignoring the fact that Israel has warned Lebanese citizens to flee the combat zones dozens of times, given the manner in which Hezbullah has hidden both itself and its weapons among civilians, it is impossible to assert, let alone prove, that Israel is deliberately attacking civilians. But it is clear that Hezbullah has turned what remains of Lebanon's civilian population into human shields.

Hezbullah has hid rocket launchers just outside a hospital in Tyre, and adjacent (and possibly on the roof of) the infamous 'residential building' that Israel bombed in Qana ten days ago. Some people may have been surprised when Israel bombed "Christian areas of East Beirut," but they should not have been surprised if they knew that Hezbullah terrorists dressed in civilian clothing set up rocket launchers in the middle of a residential street in the Christian area of Wadi Chahrour in the east of Beirut, or that Hezbullah has been using Christian towns in southern Lebanon as launching points for rockets. At Qana, there have been accusations that Hezbullah placed handicapped children on the roof of the building that was bombed. Hezbullah has fired at troops from inside houses. They have hidden bunkers under civilian parking lots, and long-range rocket launchers in 'extra rooms' added onto homes. They have built schools and residences directly atop munitions depots. Given that the terrorists look like this
it is apparent that Israel is not knowingly targeting civilians when it goes after the terrorists, and given all of the evidence above, it should be obvious that Hezbullah is hiding among the civilian population. All of which means that if Israel is violating the Geneva Convention, it could only be on the basis of the third test: the so-called proportionality restriction.

Leaving aside for a minute that many bloggers have argued - including me - that there is no such thing as a 'proportional' response to Hezbullah's actions in this war,
Israel is not violating the Geneva Convention's proportionality requirement.

I have already noted that Orde Kittrie wrote that the proportionality test "involves a complicated and controversial balancing test." Kittrie goes on to explain:
Geneva Convention Protocol I contains one version of the proportionality test, the International Criminal Court Statute another; neither is universally accepted. As a result, the proportionality test is governed by "customary international law," an amalgam of non-universal treaty law, court decisions, and how influential nations actually behave. It does not hinge on the relative number of casualties, or the force used, however, but on the intent of the combatant. Under customary international law, proportionality prohibits attacks expected to cause incidental death or injury to civilians if this harm would, on balance, be excessive in relation to the overall legitimate military accomplishment anticipated.


If Israel was mistaken and Hezbollah was not firing from or hiding amongst these civilians, the legality of its action is assessed by the proportionality test. [But we know from countless testimonies that Israel is not mistaken and that Hezbullah is firing from among civilians. CiJ] Because the test is vague, there have been few, if any, cases since World War II in which a soldier, commander or country has been convicted of violating it. In the absence of guidance from the courts, determining whether Israel's military has failed the proportionality test depends on an assessment of what civilian casualties it expected, what its overall military goals are, the context in which the country is operating, and how the international community has in practice balanced civilian risk against military goals. [There is no way to attack a munitions depot hidden beneath a house and a school without blowing up the house and the school. That would make any attack in which the civilians have been warned to leave the house and the school proportional per se. CiJ]

Israel did not expect civilian casualties; it warned civilians to leave Qana [and all areas south of the Litani at this point. CiJ]... The law of war recognizes that mistakes are inevitable, and does not criminalize soldiers who seek in good faith seek to avoid them.
Therefore, Siniora's assertion that Israel is violating the Geneva Convention is simply incorrect.

In fact, the Europeans, many of whom have also accused Israel of reacting 'disproportionately,' slaughtered more than 10,000 civilians in Kosovo in the early 90's. Kind of like the pot calling the kettle black, isn't it?

Worse, Siniora's government is itself responsible for Hezbullah's actions. As was pointed out in an article by Irwin Graulich to which I linked yesterday:
Let me get this straight. You allow one of the largest terrorist organizations in the world to set up shop throughout your country. You permit them to completely take over the entire southern third of Lebanon and you claim to have seen nothing.

You allow the terrorists to build sophisticated, fortified bunkers and you did not see any heavy equipment building them. You allow the Hezbollah terrorists to move into many of your towns and villages, including the complete takeover of one of the largest neighborhoods in Beirut, where they proceed to build numerous, complex command and control centers...and then you claim ignorance.

You allow Hezbollah to store weapons, bombs and rockets in your basements. You turn a blind's eye when they carry arms into your restaurants, stores and buildings, yet you call yourself an "innocent civilian."

You watch the Hezbollah parades with hundreds of thousands of participants including children screaming, "Jihad. Death to Israel, Jews and Americans," burning American and Israeli flags, while goose-stepping soldiers with Nazi-like salutes receive your cheers--and all of you "innocent civilians" did not see a thing even though you were captured on videotape. All this, while Koffi Annan and much of the UN insist that "we should not believe our lying eyes about the innocent civilians."

There are giant posters of the rubenesque terrorist leader, Hasan Nasrallah, all over Lebanon with headlines declaring the imminent destruction of Israel. Yet you choose to elect this terrorist party to your government--and all of the so called "innocent Lebanese" do not know anything about anything.

Twenty thousand rockets and launchers are shipped into your country along with other military equipment by plane, truck and ship, and the government industrial complex knew absolutely nothing; and neither did all those "poor, innocent civilians" who are now crying.

So you allow the "Devil" into your homes and into your lives; you take the Devil's money, food and medicine; you sleep with the Devil...and get a serious evil disease. And then you blame the Jews, of course! Well, there is no sympathy for the devil...or his helpers!

The Lebanese "knowingly allowed (aka aided and abbetted)" murderous terrorists to proliferate in their sovereign nation. Like spoiled teenagers, they now refuse to take any responsibility. Of course there are some truly innocent civilians, but there were hundreds of thousands of beautiful German babies and mothers in Dresden and Berlin who were blown to bits. If an attack emanates from your country, the entire country is responsible. That is how life works and it is sometimes unfair.
Yes, that's how life works when you hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil. Ask the Taliban. And stop whining.


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