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Thursday, June 10, 2010

NGO's and the next war

David Rieff discusses the newfound role of NGO's as military actors as a result of what he calls Israel's 'Pyrrhic victory' over the Mavi Marmara last week.
Viewed coldly, and without partisanship, the Free Gaza flotilla represents not just a significant event in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but an extraordinary victory for an idea that has been talked about ad nauseam, but actually rarely put into practice so successfully—the ability of non-state actors not themselves military formations (Caldwell should go back and read his international humanitarian law on proportionality in war) to influence political outcomes in conflict zones. Before the attack on the Mavi Marmara, there was no movement whether from the Israeli side or from Egypt towards modifying the blockade and no serious pressure from major external actors, above all the United States, on the two countries to do so. But today, Egypt has opened its border with Gaza, Prime Minister Netanyahu himself is talking about the need to rethink the blockade, and, whatever they say in public, and whatever they block in the UN Security Council, the Obama administration is pressurizing the Israelis to do just that.

But these ramifications for the Palestinians, for Israel, and for the neighboring countries are only part of the story. Like it or not, the success of the Free Gaza flotilla (or, to put it another way, Israel’s Pyrrhic victory) represents the coming to fruition of the idea of the non-governmental organizations as central players in global geopolitics. And that is where humanitarianism comes in. For one of the central ideas of the modern humanitarian movement, with the exception of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and, at least during the past two decades, the French section of Doctors Without Borders, has been to insist that national sovereignty simply could not be used by states to behave as they wished toward either their own citizens or, as is the case in Gaza, populations they judge to be hostile and who are under their control.
I'll believe that this is a new form of warfare when the NGO's do this to a country other than Israel, when they do this to a non-Western country, and do this to a dictatorship like Iran or North Korea. Until then, it's difficult to view the terror-connected IHH as anything other than a terror organization aiming to fight Israel.

And by the way, what does the Geneva Convention have to say about these NGO's who insist on injecting themselves into military conflicts in roles that are not the traditional humanitarian roles of the International Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders? Are they combatants? I would argue that if their actions constitute military action on behalf of one side to a conflict (like trying to run a naval blockade after being ordered to stop), they are combatants. If so, they are fair game for any military force. That might make some of the 'activists' want to rethink whether this is something they want to be doing. From the accounts I've read of the Mavi Marmara, other than the 40 hard core terrorists on board, it didn't occur to anyone else on that ship or the other five that they could come under fire.


At 3:51 PM, Blogger malachim said...

Your questioning the altruism of the effort has been largely ignored by mainstream reporting and less assumptive than my opinons on this issue.

Thank-You for a very objective NJO- non-judgemental overview!

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

These so-called NGO's are mercenaries!

Like this vicious anti-semite Ken O'Keefe, former US marine, now freelance "activist" He was on the Marmara and attacked the IDF commandos after they were thrown down steps and disarmed. It was in UK Times, Tuesday June 8th.

He has spent time in an Israeli prison and , guess what, now lives in London! He and the others are terrorist mercenaries!

At 4:15 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

There tends to be a "halo" effect around NGOs. The most dangerous aspect of their assault on the nation-state is to impact its ability to defend itself from threats. Israel is just their first victim. But the precedent the Europeans and Americans have now established in their enormous pressure on Israel may come back to haunt them later. For better or for worse, Israel is still the world's miner canary.


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