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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Britain's Guardian plays prosecutor, judge and jury; convicts IDF of 'war crimes': Part 3 of 3

The British Daily Guardian runs three articles in Tuesday's editions in which Israel is accused, judged and found guilty of war crimes. In one article, Israel is accused of using a drone that can see 'everything' to fire on an innocent family sitting in the courtyard of its home drinking tea, killing four people and to fire on a group of girls carrying a white flag killing two people. In the second story, Israel is accused of using three 'Palestinian' brothers as 'human shields' to prevent IDF tanks and personnel from being fired upon. In the third story, Israel is accused of firing upon 'Palestinian' medical workers - including ambulance crews (whose members are interviewed) and hospitals (for which only pictorial evidence is provided). Each story comes with a video of the interviews with the 'Palestinians.' (Hat Tip: Melanie Phillips).

I'm going to split this into three separate posts, because one post will be too long. Due to the risk that someone may read one post and not all three, the introduction about the Geneva Convention that follows will appear in all three posts. This is the third post.

When watching the videos and reading the articles, there are a number of points you must bear in mind. First, the Guardian consistently misstates 'international law.' From watching these videos, you would think that it is absolutely forbidden to attack anyplace where there are civilians, and especially not 'medical crews' and the like. But this is not the case. Let's look at the Geneva Convention on this point.

Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states:
The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations
Article 51/7 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions (adopted in June 1977) specifies:
The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.
That means that if Hamas is hiding 'fighters' in hospitals, Israel may target those hospitals. It means that if medics are doubling as 'fighters,' Israel may attack those medics.

At least one of the videos makes reference to Israel's actions being 'disproportionate.' But the proportionality test to which they are referring never comes into play because of Hamas' (documented) use of human shields. This is from a post that I did about the Qana incident in Lebanon in the summer of 2006 - just substitute Hamas for Hezbullah. The original article from which it was taken is here.
International law has three major prohibitions relevant to the Qana incident. 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.

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.

At Qana, Israeli aircraft fired toward a building to stop Hezbollah from shooting rockets at its cities. The aircraft did not deliberately target civilians; but Hezbollah rockets are targeted at civilians, a clear war crime. U.N. humanitarian chief Jan Egeland last week called on Hezbollah to stop its "cowardly blending" among women and children: "I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this." If Hezbollah used Lebanese civilians in Qana as "human shields," then Hezbollah, not Israel, is legally responsible for their deaths.

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. 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.
With all of that in mind, let's go to the third videotape.

In this case, again, there is no independent confirmation that the incidents in question ever took place. The entire story is based on the testimony of the (remarkably unscathed if they are telling the truth) 'Palestinians' involved.

It has already been shown that Hamas hijacked ambulances during Operation Cast Lead.

And it's been shown that Hamas has used UN ambulances to transport terrorists. Let's go to the videotape.

As to the claim that medics were targeted by the IDF, remember Anas Naim? Here's what the JPost had to say about him and other supposed 'medics':

The CLA gave the Post the names of several fatalities who it said had been classified by the Palestinians as "medics," but who it stated were Hamas fighters, including Anas Naim, the nephew of Hamas Health Minister Bassem Naim, who was killed during clashes with the IDF on January 4 in the Sheikh Ajlin neighborhood of Gaza City.

Following the clashes, the Palestinian press reported that Naim was killed and that he was a medic with the Palestinian Red Crescent. The Gaza CLA, however, produced photographs of Naim posing holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and a Kalashnikov assault rifle that had been posted on a Hamas Web site [see picture at left. CiJ].
As to the allegation that Israel targeted hospitals, again, if they were being used for terrorist operations, they are legitimate targets. We do know that Hamas set up a separate hospital for its own wounded and that the Hamas leadership spent the war hidden in a bunker underneath Gaza City's Shifa Hospital, knowing that Israel would not attack it.

A few other comments on the Guardian's video:

The Guardian tries to give the impression that there are no circumstances in which a hospital or ambulance could be hit. But as I showed above, that is not so. The Guardian admits that if there were 'fighters' using a hospital, it could be targeted, but it ignores the possibility that was the case.

By the way, what are the odds of critically ill patients fleeing on foot as one of the witnesses claimed happened?

Am I the only one who noticed that the second description from an ambulance driver ("they carried him until they got to about here") was remarkably like the first?


At 8:51 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Yep. Hospitals, religious structures and other protected sites may be attacked if the enemy is using them to conduct military operations. Its just as much of an offense under international law to exploit them for a military advantage just as it is to use innocent civilians for a military advantage. In the Guardian's world, we're to believe the Palestinians have never fought dishonorably in the course of a war. Yeah, sure. Israel has definitely committed no war crime here.


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