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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The laws of war

This is from a YNet opinion piece which asks whether Winston Churchill was a war criminal.
Public norms and laws changed, and with the end of WWII, the international community rewrote the laws of war. In an attempt to protect civilians, the Geneva Conventions and subsequent protocols categorized people in conflict as combatants or non-combatants, with the latter designated as immune to attack. That categorization may have been fitting for WWII but it does not adequately address the realities of modern day asymmetric warfare, where terror groups such as Hamas and al-Qaeda intentionally target civilians and take cover behind other civilians.

The US suggests an additional category, ‘Unlawful Combatants’, whereby Qaeda and Hamas terrorists would fall under that category. Unfortunately, those who drafted the recent report concerning the battle in Gaza have yet to adopt that categorization and often confuse between non-combatant civilians and unlawful combatant terrorists. That is one of the reasons for the report’s absurd results.

Another terminological and moral reason for the distorted findings of the UN report is the misperceived premise held by Goldstone and his team that the lives of IDF combatants and Israeli citizens are of less value than the lives of Hamas collaborators or disinclined neighbors. In a not-so-speculative scenario where a residential building located in enemy controlled territory (i.e. Gaza) is occupied by scores of terrorists (i.e. Hamas) that target civilians (i.e. Sderot), the correct course of action in Goldstone’s book would be to either let Hamas continue its terrorist attacks or to put IDF combatants under unreasonable risk by sending them into the Hamas controlled compound in an effort to vet between heavily armed terrorist, their collaborators and their reluctant neighbors.

A different course of action would be to warn the coerced civilians of the imminent threat they are exposed to, and to target the armed terrorists from an advantaged military position, after giving the citizens ample time to evacuate the building. The IDF chose the reasonable and moral course of action.
I'm discussing this article because I want to stress something to all of you. The laws of war are definitely in need of revision to cope with an age that is characterized by asymmetrical conflicts between non-uniformed terrorists who hide among civilians and standing armies. But those of us who are taking down the Goldstone Report are not doing so on the basis that the law is wrong. We are doing so based on the Goldstone Commission having found 'facts' that are pure fantasy in a manner that was inherently biased against Israel. It's important to try to keep a distance between the two arguments.


At 3:21 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The laws of war are good in theory but in practice even lawyers aren't clear when they are applicable. There are lots of more grey areas in a combat situation than people realize. Its not made out to be as black and white as Goldstone makes it out to be.

At 3:37 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - a couple of days ago, Israel notified the UN about Hezbollah violations of the ceasefire. Now guess whom the UN accused of violating the aforesaid ceasefire?

UN Accuses Israel Of Spying

International law, my tuchis! This is another good reason Israel needs to leave the UN soon!

At 3:59 AM, Blogger R-MEW Editors said...

We suggested in a previous post that Churchill would indeed today be demonized, charged and perhaps imprisoned as a "war criminal".

Terrorists and their enablers around the world are working feverishly to disarm states via the new art of Lawfare. Israel is the test case.

The irony is that the efforts by many Western nations to "civilize" war are now being used against them to outlaw their self-defense.


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