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Monday, October 26, 2009

An admission of guilt?

Prime Minister Netanyahu has directed several government agencies to look into changing the 'laws of war' to better cover situations of asymmetric conflict between state armies and terror organizations. In the JPost, Professor of Human Rights Law William Schabas argues that it's a bad idea and may even be an admission of guilt by Israel.
"It's one thing to claim that [the rules of war] should change, but that doesn't give you an excuse to violate them until they've changed," said William Schabas, professor of human rights law and the author of 21 books dealing with international human rights law, in an interview with Army Radio.

"I think the fact that Netanyahu says he wants to change the laws of war is almost an admission that Israel violated them," Schabas claimed.

The world-renowned law professor went on to predict it was very unlikely the world would support the prime minister's initiative. It is not realistic to say that the Geneva Conventions, which were intended to protect the lives of civilians in a military conflict, do not allow a state to handle terror threats, he said.

When Israel harmed civilians during Operation Cast Lead it broke laws based on ancient moral values, he added.
It should be added that Schabas supports the Goldstone Commission report.

While Netanyahu is correct that international law dealing with asymmetrical conflicts ought to be re-examined, this is not the time to do it and Israel does not need that re-examination for its own self-defense. As I discussed at length in this post, Israel did not violate international law in Operation Cast Lead. Schabas has a point when he argues that Netanyahu's attempt to change the law to justify what Israel did looks like an admission of guilt. Even though the law ought to be changed, Israel's actions stand up to scrutiny under the current law. Goldstone misstated the legal standards and misapplied the law.


At 6:18 AM, Blogger Batya said...

Never complain; never explain should be our mantra. Everything else just encourages more criticism.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel did NOT violate any laws. They were just misstated and misapplied to Operation Cast Lead. They do have to be changed to take in account asymmetrical warfare in the 21st Century but even then Israel's conduct in Gaza was well above the minimal requirements of international law that governs armed conflict.


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