Israel’s War Crimes

by Daniel on August 4, 2006

Following on from last week’s post on Hezbollah’s War Crimes, it would seem appropriate to follow up with a discussion of the actions of the state of Israel with respect to the Geneva Conventions. Human Rights Watch has an excellent and thoroughly-researched report on the subject of whether the civilian casualties in Lebanon have been the result of collateral damage to legitimate military actions, or whether there have been instances of illegitimate, intentional or excessive violence against civilians. It concludes that there is certainly a case to answer. There is also the issue of whether the war crime of “reprisals” has been committed – the carrying out of acts of violence against civilians in order to put pressure on their government to carry out some desired course of action, which is of course called “terrorism” when non-state actors do it.

I had prepared a post on this subject, but the Human Rights Watch report is so much more thorough that I think it’s better to base discussion on that (by the way, the comments on the Hezbollah war crimes post were very civilised and intelligent, let’s repeat that). My summary of the report’s conclusions would be that the proposition that the IDF “takes the utmost care to minimise civilian casualties” has been falsified to a high degree of certainty, and even the weaker claim that the IDF does not intentionally target civilians looks a lot less certain than one would previously have believed. The attacks on infrastructure such as the LibanLait dairy look not at all like legitimate attempts to shut down Hezbollah and very much like attempts to intimidate the Lebanese population; unless we are prepared to postulate a truly colossal series of blunders, it looks very bad indeed.

Israel has in the past been able to maintain, with some justification, that there can be no “moral equivalence” between its actions and those of the terrorists; an important point when the physical effects of the IDF’s actions have been so many more deaths than the physical effects of terrorism. Whatever the jus ad bellum, this issue of jus in bello matters a lot, and speculation about the long term genocidal aims of the President of Iran simply cannot justify war crimes now. The gradual disintegration of the clear distinctions between the conduct in war of Israel and that of its enemies, which are very important in maintaining Israel’s international diplomatic reputation, ought to worry the Israeli government a lot more than it apparently does.

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1

SamChevre 08.04.06 at 10:04 am

Daniel,

I’m (as previously stated) not an expert on the laws of war–but I think I disagree with this statement.

There is also the issue of whether the war crime of “reprisals” has been committed – the carrying out of acts of violence against civilians in order to put pressure on their government to carry out some desired course of action, which is of course called “terrorism” when non-state actors do it.

Two disagreements/questions:

1) Wouldn’t reprisals, as you define them, be a tactic used in war by everyone who has fought in the last century? From Sherman’s march through Georgia and Sheridan’s destruction of the valley, through the fire-bombing of Tokyo and the blockade of Germany, to the bombing of Kosovo, getting the government to stop fighting has been a primary goal, and getting its citizens to stop supporting the fighting a significant means.

2) Isn’t the distinction between terrorists and armies specifically that one answers to a government, and one doesn’t?

My concern in the whole debate is that the laws of war were written, IMO, to ensure, as much as possible, that armies fought armies and civilians were left alone as much as possible. This requires that who is army, and who isn’t, be distinguishable at all times. Giving the protections due to soldiers to people who don’t distinguish themselves from civilians, and protecting civilians who are being used as human shields, encourages armies to mix with civilians and use human shields–which is the worst outcome.

2

Steve 08.04.06 at 10:05 am

“The gradual disintegration of the clear distinctions between the conduct in war of Israel and that of its enemies, which are very important in maintaining Israel’s international diplomatic reputation,”

???? What do you think Israel’s international diplomatic reputation is right now? Do you think it can be hurt by its behavior in Lebanon? My perception is that nobody likes them but the US. I guess if you mean by ‘international diplomatic reputation’ ‘reputation with Bush’ then I could agree with it. But everyone else already dislikes them-they’ve got nothing to lose.

Steve

3

Daniel 08.04.06 at 10:12 am

Steve: I am less pessimistic about Israel’s current diplomatic reputation than you are. It often looks that way but in fact the EU etc maintain quite good relationships with Israel and although they grumble, they always eventually support it. They’re grumbling a hell of a lot more at the moment though.

4

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 10:16 am

“Israel has in the past been able to maintain, with some justification, that there can be no “moral equivalence” between its actions and those of the terrorists”

I would respectfully disagree. The targeting of civilians is a hallmark of modern war, as is the forcible expulsion of populations and the importation of new ones to take their place.
I have no right of return, and to say that I do is, as an argument, racist on its face.

States are artificial entities not absolutes, moral or otherwise.
Liberal Zionists defense of their position, for example Sanford Levinson at Balkinization and Josh Marshall at TPM are predicated implicitly, in Levinson’s case, or explicitly in Marshall comments as a matter of what the world owes the Jews. This is not what I would call a modern logic, and it is this same logic that refuses to accept what would both the modern and the moral choice of a binational state.
The self indulgent and patently false sense of righteousness and moral superiority that allows Israel to have a foreign policy roughly equivalent to a Monroe Doctrine on crank, is the biggest obstacle by far to a lasting peace in the Mideast.

5

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 10:17 am

sorry about the link

6

JMG 08.04.06 at 10:23 am

To quote the old pulp fiction and film noir term, war makes people and societies kill-simple. Both Israel and its most devout foes have fallen into this lethal trap.

7

Marc Mulholland 08.04.06 at 10:35 am

I’d say that Israel’s military reputation has stood higher than its enemies not only in terms of efficiency (unarguable) but also as regards observation of the rules of law. This is especially the case in inter-state wars, which is really the category in which the current campaign should be placed.

A problem with the present war, is that Israel seems to be applying the policing-by-army role it has adopted in the Occupied Territories. It military actions are shading into the quasi-judicial and punitive.

There is a trade off in the alternative claims for legitimacy in policing on the one hand and waging war on the other. State-action in war allows for the application of concentrated lethal force, while state-action in policing has the authority to coerce the population into detailed and active co-operation. War-authority is sharp and focussed, while police-authority is diffuse and general.

When the two concepts get mixed up, you have a sanguinary law without consensus. Those on the receiving end of military action are not treated as belligerents, but as criminals. This is a dangerous area to get into. I think Israel has strayed into this territory somewhat.

Of course, it must quickly be said that while there is strong evidence for the IDF treating civilians as potential or actual criminals, rather than as enemy non-combatants, Hizbollah are without shame rocketing Israeli civilians and treat the Israeli state itself as criminal.

8

fred lapides 08.04.06 at 11:14 am

I read this and then recall what is taking place by American troops in Iraq and what is taking place, we are told, to prisoners taken in a war against terrorism. And then I recall being is a position to see manyh reports of “bad” behavior by American troops while I served in the early days of the Korean war–andguess what? Israel is no different than most nations when their soldiers lose friends and relatives through actions by those who hate them. War seldom enobles combatants.

9

Jacob T. Levy 08.04.06 at 11:25 am

1) Wouldn’t reprisals, as you define them, be a tactic used in war by everyone who has fought in the last century? From Sherman’s march through Georgia and Sheridan’s destruction of the valley, through the fire-bombing of Tokyo and the blockade of Germany, to the bombing of Kosovo, getting the government to stop fighting has been a primary goal, and getting its citizens to stop supporting the fighting a significant means.

Well, at least Georgia, the Valley, and Tokyo (as well as Dresden, etc) seem to me obvious war crimes. Yes, the war crime of reprisals has been terribly common. That doesn’t render it legitimate. (I think the bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo campaign probably crossed the line, but it wasn’t anywhere near the level of Sherman or Dresden.) Israel disavows the goal of doing what Sherman did. Daniel gives us reason to worry and doubt, but Israel at least officially accepts the illegitimacy of reprisals.

10

neil 08.04.06 at 11:50 am

This is especially the case in inter-state wars, which is really the category in which the current campaign should be placed.

Perhaps this is off-topic, but I really think this is not accurate at all. And there’s one good reason why: If this is a war between states, where the hell are the Lebanese armed forces?

As it turns out they are cowering and trying not to get killed. Although they don’t always succeed; Israel killed a Lebanese soldier by accident the other day and then apologized for it.

Doesn’t make it sound particularly much like this is a war between states. But I’m eager to hear your justification.

11

neil 08.04.06 at 11:56 am

Hizbollah are without shame rocketing Israeli civilians

What takes more shame: to fire a rocket without knowing what you are going to hit, or to deliberately drop a targeted bomb in a place where you know it will kill innocent civilians?

I am not trying to imply that I’ve made up my mind because they both seem to be quite shameless. But if Hezbollah had better munitions, do you think they would still be taking potshots at houses and apartment buildings, or would they use their improved aiming capabilities to hit ‘non-civilian’ targets like bridges, radio stations, hospitals and the houses of government officials?

12

Kevin Donoghue 08.04.06 at 12:01 pm

Neil,

While I don’t think your question to Marc Mulholland is OT, what difference does it make? As the HRW report says, the conflict can be viewed as Israel v Hesbollah and/or Israel v Lebanon, but much the same law applies in either case.

As for targeting and shamelessness, the fact that Hisbullah has to make do with lousy technology, while Israel has to depend on lousy intelligence, doesn’t excuse either of them.

13

Steve 08.04.06 at 12:01 pm

“if Hezbollah had better munitions, do you think they would still be taking potshots at houses and apartment buildings, or would they use their improved aiming capabilities to hit ‘non-civilian’ targets like bridges, radio stations, hospitals and the houses of government officials?”

But they do have better munitions. They’ve got suicide bombers. Those bombers tend not to be
used against bridges, homes of government officials, military vehicles, etc. They tend to target pizza parlors and public buses. Whoda thunk it?

14

brooksfoe 08.04.06 at 12:04 pm

But if Hezbollah had better munitions, do you think they would still be taking potshots at houses and apartment buildings, or would they use their improved aiming capabilities to hit ‘non-civilian’ targets like bridges, radio stations, hospitals and the houses of government officials?

Tough call. On the one hand, hitting apartment buildings creates more news coverage, which wins them more political points in the Arab world. On the other hand, they do seem to like killing Israeli soldiers.

On the government officials front, it’s always seemed hypocritical to me that the Israelis went so apeshit when the Palestinians assassinated the Minister for Settlements some years back. If anyone was a legitimate target for a Palestinian attack, he was it.

15

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.04.06 at 12:11 pm

“But if Hezbollah had better munitions, do you think they would still be taking potshots at houses and apartment buildings, or would they use their improved aiming capabilities to hit ‘non-civilian’ targets like bridges, radio stations, hospitals and the houses of government officials?”

We already know the answer to that question. Rockets aren’t their only weapon. With weapons they can target, they often target civilians.

16

P O'Neill 08.04.06 at 12:11 pm

One thing I don’t see covered in the HRW report is the taking of hostages. Israel seems to have changed its rationale for the Baalbek hospital raid several times, but the most recent involved rumours that the seized persons — who now seem to be not very senior Hezbollah people, if Hezbollah at all — would be most useful in a future prisoner swap.

17

brooksfoe 08.04.06 at 12:23 pm

I’m a strong supporter of Israel. But it seems pretty clear that they’re committing war crimes. Many of the targets are far removed from the fighting and seem to have no reasonable connection to it. And then there’s a question on the ‘proportionality’ issue which seems important to me: the big harm Israel seeks to stop is the firing of rockets into Israel. But Hezbollah has offered to stop firing if Israel will end its air raids. Israel’s air raids and invasion are clearly disproportionate to the initial kidnapping; it’s only the firing of the rockets that renders Israel’s war even arguably proportionate. But does Hezbollah’s offer to end the rocket attacks impact the “proportionality” question, given that it offers another, peaceful way to end the harm Israel is trying to prevent?

18

Barry 08.04.06 at 12:23 pm

“We already know the answer to that question. Rockets aren’t their only weapon. With weapons they can target, they often target civilians.”

Posted by Sebastian Holsclaw

Sebastian, with the vastly better weapons (and more importantly, sophisticated, linked systems), Israel seems to score a very high proportion of civlian kills.

19

Marc Mulholland 08.04.06 at 12:27 pm

Neil,

I think this is an inter-state war because Israel, it seems to me, has systematically and deliberately degraded the functioning of a sovereign state. I don’t think the Lebanese Army would be unjustified in fighting back, if it could or was so inclined.

20

Hogan 08.04.06 at 12:29 pm

How many civilians were killed or wounded in Sherman’s march and Sheridan’s raid? Crops were destroyed, barns burned, food and livestock expropriated, but I’ve never heard of any loss of non-military life.

21

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.04.06 at 12:30 pm

Sorry that was a bit off the narrow topic. So far as the HRW report goes, I’m a little concerned about their concept of ‘civilian’. Their main method of determining civilian status is asking the family members and neighbors if there was Hezbollah military activity in the area. I can’t imagine that family members are likely to admit that anyone killed was in Hezbollah. I would also be surprised if neighbors would feel particularly safe to turn in Hezbollah to an international report. So I’m skeptical of the findings of zero non-civilian deaths.

I’m also a little bit concerned by this aspect of the methodology:

In a small minority of cases, Human Rights Watch researchers in Lebanon could locate
witnesses only in Hezbollah-controlled camps for displaced persons in Beirut.
Hezbollah controls an estimated seventy of the 120 schools currently housing the
displaced. On such occasions, Hezbollah officials often insisted that Human Rights
Watch researchers not ask questions about the location of Hezbollah militants because
such information, wherever Hezbollah might be located, was of military value. These
conditions limited Human Rights Watch’s ability to make a legal determination regarding
whether the target in question was legitimate. In such cases, researchers sought
additional witnesses outside of Hezbollah’s control to investigate the location of
Hezbollah militants in the area at the time of the attack. If such witnesses could not be
found, Human Rights Watch dropped the case.
As noted, in the cases documented in this report, witnesses consistently told Human
Rights Watch that neither Hezbollah fighters nor other legitimate military targets were in
the area that the IDF attacked. However, Human Rights Watch did document cases in
which the IDF hit legitimate military targets, and, with limited exceptions, witnesses
were generally willing to discuss the presence and activity of Hezbollah. At the sites
visited by Human Rights Watch—Qana, Srifa, Tyre, and the southern suburbs of

Beirut—on-site investigations did not identify any signs of military activity in the area
attacked, such as trenches, destroyed rocket launchers, other military equipment, or dead
or wounded fighters.

The fact that Hezbollah doesn’t want people talking to HRW is thus established, and its control of that may well extend beyond mere camps wholly controlled by Hezbollah.

What are the characteristics of the “limited exceptions” where HRW found clear evidence of a military target and still had unwillingness of witnesses with respect to admitting that Hezbollah was there? Are the circumstances surrounding those cases generalizable to other cases?

22

Brendan 08.04.06 at 12:30 pm

‘But they do have better munitions. They’ve got suicide bombers. Those bombers tend not to be
used against bridges, homes of government officials, military vehicles, etc. They tend to target pizza parlors and public buses. Whoda thunk it?’

My understanding is that this is false (or at least, not the whole truth). Hizbollah always tended to attack military targets or targets that could be considered military (embassies, military bases etc.). It was only Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade that actually carried out the most notorious suicide bombers (i.e. the ones in crowded city streets etc.).

Wikipedia says this: ‘The first modern suicide bombing occurred in Iran in 1980 when 13-year old Hossein Fahmideh detonated himself as he ran up to an Iraqi tank at a key point in a battle of the Iran-Iraq War. Lebanon, during its civil war, saw a modern suicide bombing: the Islamic Dawa Party’s car bombing of the Iraqi embassy in Beirut, in December 1981. Hezbollah’s bombing of the U.S. embassy in April 1983 and attack on United States Marine and French barracks in October 1983 brought suicide bombings international attention. Other parties to the civil war were quick to adopt the tactic, and by 1999 factions such as Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, the Ba’ath Party, and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party had carried out around 50 suicide bombings between them. (The latter of these groups sent the first female suicide bomber in 1986. Female combatants have existed throughout human history and in many different societies, so it is possible that females who engage in suicidal attacks are not new.) Hezbollah was the only one to attack overseas, bombing the Israeli embassy (and possibly the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association building) in Buenos Aires; as its military and political power have grown, it has since abandoned the tactic.’

This last sentence demonstrates a crucial point. Militant groups only pursue suicide bombers because they don’t see any alternative: because they don’t have the money or materiel to fight ‘conventionally’. Hizbollah doesn’t carry out suicide bombings anymore because it doesn’t have to: it can now fire rockets and fight the IDF like ‘real’ soldiers.

23

neil 08.04.06 at 12:32 pm

Makes sense to me, Marc. My feeling that it’s not an inter-state war has mostly to do with the fact that the Israelis seem to consider the resistance they’re meeting to be illegitimate and not in defense of a state, describing it instead as terrorism. But I suppose that like you say, this has little to do with the legal state of affairs.

24

neil 08.04.06 at 12:39 pm

I don’t think so, Steve. Military targets, as opposed to ‘soft’ civilians targets, are a great deal harder to damage with suicide bombings because they are fortified and guarded.

You can try this experiment at home. See how far into a military base you can penetrate without being asked for your identity or searched. Close enough to get to a munitions dump, communications facility or officers’ barracks? No? Now try the same experiment with a city bus or a cafe. Well, you don’t have to try that, because nobody ever challenges an anonymous person entering a city bus or cafe.

Hezbollah itself performed one of the most successful suicide bombings against a military target, in fact, but it was extremely difficult to pull off and would be impossible to replicate.

25

Marc Mulholland 08.04.06 at 12:50 pm

Presumably, if Hizb wanted, they could use their Katyusha’s to bombard forward Israeli military positions. Anywhere within a klik of the border, I reckon, could plausibly be defined as a legitimate target, being a clearly miltarised zone (as long as civvies were warned to clear out).

This, afterall, is how the Soviets used these ‘Stalin’s Organs’.

Bombarding Haifa is just a war-crime really.

26

Marc Mulholland 08.04.06 at 12:53 pm

Neil,

I agree that the “Israelis seem to consider the resistance they’re meeting to be illegitimate and not in defense of a state, describing it instead as terrorism”. This, I think, has a lot to do with the confusion between war-waging and police-action which is leading Israel to take inadequate cognisance of combatant / non-combantant status.

27

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 1:02 pm

Question: What about the land mines that Israel refused to remove, or supply a map of? And they’re planting more

28

Dan Simon 08.04.06 at 1:35 pm

Okay, Daniel, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it’s been established that neither side in this conflict is abiding by the officially defined standards for the conduct of war. Now what? What do you propose that the “community of nations” (if indeed such a thing can even be said to exist) ought to do in response?

Call for an immediate ceasefire. If it works–great. If one side ignores it, though, the other will, too–and we’re back to square one, except that you can add, “refused to heed calls for an immediate ceasefire” to both charge sheets.

Economic sanctions. These might have an effect on Israel, but obviously would mean nothing to Hezbollah. Thus, instead of encouraging compliance, they would simply reward violence by non-state actors. (For example, they would encourage Israel to establish its own Hezbollah-like irregular force, in order to dodge sanctions. Such a force would likely be even less respectful of international norms of warfare than the IDF.)

Arms embargo. This actually might make sense–if it could be made to stick. But my understanding is that the main supplier of arms to Hezbollah, Iran, is already under an arms embargo of its own, which is itself proving pretty leaky. It seems unlikely that one could be made to stick against Israel, either, given its large armaments industry and the state of the world arms market.

Military intervention. What sane country would risk a repeat of Beirut in 1983 by trying to intervene in a battle involving Hezbollah?

Simply make the statement, and hope that both sides’ consciences will do the rest. Fair enough–but it’s pretty clear by now that both sides have wrestled with their consciences, and at least reached a draw.

Have I missed any options?

29

Dan Simon 08.04.06 at 1:46 pm

Militant groups only pursue suicide bombers because they don’t see any alternative: because they don’t have the money or materiel to fight ‘conventionally’.

This assumes that every militant group’s ultimate goal is the defeat of a particular military force. That might be the case for, say, groups seeking independence for a piece of territory from a foreign/central government. But if the goal is to overrun and supplant the current population of a neighboring piece of territory–a popular motivation for war since time immemorial–then the priorities are reversed: one targets armies only because they stand in the way of slaughtering civilians.

The wanton targeting of civilians by Hezbollah and the various Palestinian groups, and the extraordinary care the Israeli forces take to spare civilians when operating against the former, make perfect sense when considered in that light.

30

Jake 08.04.06 at 1:55 pm

Getting into the details of each incident where a civilian dies is not particularly helpful in determining if war crimes were commited, it seems. If you think a truck is carrying weapons and blow it up and it turns out it was carrying people instead, that’s tragic but not criminal. Similarly, Hezballah makes it difficult to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants; it’s a political party / army / militia. It wouldn’t be a war crime for the Iraqis to bomb a barracks that houses US soldiers who’s only job is to load and unload MREs from trucks; the same for Hezballah.

But if you’re going to break some eggs, you’d better have an omelet to show for it when you’re done (in the words of the Geneva Convention, there has to be “concrete and direct military advantage anticipated”), and that is where the IDF seems to be lacking.

(Of course, Hezballah is committing the same crimes, just on a smaller scale. Indiscriminate rocketing of northern Israel is clearly an “act or threat of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population”, and thus prohibited.)

Olmert is turning out to be no Ariel Sharon, but it’s a little bit surprising that that’s a bad thing for Israel’s neighbors.

31

RogerZ 08.04.06 at 2:06 pm

It’s really simple: Hezbollah is the aggressor here. They started it. A free and legitimate state (meaning one with at least a free press, independent judiciary, multiple genuine political parties and complete freedom to emigrate) has an absolute right to self defense. This means the right to use all force necessary to ensure that the aggressor cannot continue its violation of the rights of the free nation’s citizens. All collateral damage resulting from the use of this force is the responsibility of the aggressor.

If the “laws of war” say differently, then the law – as is often the case – is an ass.

32

abb1 08.04.06 at 2:33 pm

Olmert is making omelet.

Please don’t ban me, I had to do it.

33

Eamonn Fitzgerald 08.04.06 at 2:47 pm

This post borders on the immoral in that the poster seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between a democracy that is striking back at terrorists, and terrorists who attacked a democracy and are dedicated to killing civilians. It is always worth pointing out here that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 demanded that Hezbollah disarm. Hezbollah refused to comply and stockpiled an estimated 10,000 missiles under the noses of the “international community” and is now busy launching them at civilians.

34

Chris Bertram 08.04.06 at 2:53 pm

_the extraordinary care the Israeli forces take to spare civilians_

Evidence of this “extraordinary care” please? Have you not read the HRW report?

35

Elliott Oti 08.04.06 at 2:53 pm

Okay, Daniel, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it’s been established that neither side in this conflict is abiding by the officially defined standards for the conduct of war. Now what? What do you propose that the “community of nations” (if indeed such a thing can even be said to exist) ought to do in response?

What the international community’s response is should not be arbitrarily chosen from a list of (otherwise fairly sound) options, but should also depend on the players involved.

For instance, I assume both Israel and Hezbollah have no deep interest in a long and bloody Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, and that this is an outcome both parties would prefer to avoid.

I assume a situation in which Israel kills civilians, and destroys Lebanese civilian infrastructure without signfificantly damaging Hezbollah’s capabilities, is an outcome Hezbollah would like and Israel would prefer to avoid.

I assume a situation in which Hezbollah ceases its rocket attacks on Israeli cities, is an outcome Israel would like to attain.

I assume that there is a threshold above which civilian deaths and damage to Lebanese civilian infrastructure will lead to international sanctions against Israel, including withdrawal of overt US support, so there is an upper limit to the intensity with which they can maintain their current campaign.

I assume that, while a similar threshold may exist with regards to Hezbollah’s infliction of civilian casualties on Israel, that Hezbollah lacks the capability to take the battle to Israel in the same fashion that Israel has the capability to take the battle to South Lebanon.

I conclude:

1. No international peacekeeping force, ad-hoc, UN, NATO or US, will take on either Hezbollah or Israel.

2. There is sufficient incentive for both Hezbollah and Israel to agree to a ceasefire in which Hezbollah stops rocket launches and Israel withdraws from South Lebanon.

3. There is insufficient incentive to speed up the implementation of such a ceasefire: at its current level the violence benefits both Hezbollah and Israel. More Lebanese civilians have to die before the international community, in this case primarily the US, decides that a threshold has been passed in which Israel must be pressured to participate in three-way negotiations.

4. All solutions will not be long term.

36

neil 08.04.06 at 3:01 pm

Thanks Eamonn.. I think we all want to try very hard here to avoid thinking any immoral thoughts!

37

engels 08.04.06 at 3:04 pm

the poster seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between a democracy that is striking back at terrorists, and terrorists who attacked a democracy (Eamonn)

The post is about war crimes. A crime is a particular act and its status as a crime is not dependent on the status of the person who commits it. If you don’t like this principle, perhaps you ought to set up your own legal system under which people are judged differently just because of who they are, rather than anything they have done, preferably a long way away from Planet Earth.

38

Barry 08.04.06 at 3:37 pm

Eamonnn: “It is always worth pointing out here that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 demanded that Hezbollah disarm.”

I appreciate your concern about UN resolutions, and the necessity of enforcing them. Many Americans, from 2002 onwards, became *highly* concerned about UN resolutions, even (especially) people who had, and still harbor, the most intense hatred of the UN.

Of course, they were only concerned about the UN resolutions against the Saddam regime, and didn’t even seem to realize that there for UN resolutions against other countries. For example, Israel.

Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_UN_resolutions_concerning_Israel) lists a great many resolutions against the government of Israel, and has links to various sources. The article mentions 429 UN resolutions against Israel, just in the span of 1967-1988 alone.

I don’t know how many of these are still current, but if it’s only 10%, that’d be well over forty.

I hope this helps you, when the urge to point out UN resolutions comes over you again.

39

brooksfoe 08.04.06 at 3:48 pm

dan…that last post was silly. Hezbollah, whatever it has in its platform, is not trying to drive Israeli civilians out of Galilee through terror rocketing. It has no hope of doing so, and it doesn’t really have any territorial ambitions in Israel, which would be absurd and unrealistic. What it’s doing is trying to use its strategic deterrent in retaliation for Israeli attacks on it.

It’s more logical to compare its use of rockets against Israel to the US threat to use nuclear weapons against the Warsaw Pact in retaliation for a conventional invasion of Western Europe. The IDF has total superiority over Hezbollah conventional forces; Hezbollah thinks one way to stop IDF attacks is to retaliate against Israeli civilians, using weapons it knows the IDF can’t stop. The US’s plans to use nukes against the Russkies were pretty much the same thing.

40

Uncle Kvetch 08.04.06 at 3:57 pm

I assume that there is a threshold above which civilian deaths and damage to Lebanese civilian infrastructure will lead to international sanctions against Israel, including withdrawal of overt US support

I have to say that I find that last bit wildly optimistic, Elliott.

41

james 08.04.06 at 4:16 pm

In regards to #36 Engels:

International Law is something all together different. For the sake of brevity, there are two types of International Laws. The laws created when nation states sign treaties and the laws enforced by nation states. If a nation state has not signed a treaty, it is not bound by the rules of the treaty. At this point the only way a non-signatory can be bound by the rules of a treaty, is if the treaty is enforced by nations who have signed.

42

Anthony 08.04.06 at 4:27 pm

Can anyone demonstrate that Israeli targetting is any worse than US or UK targetting in recent conflicts?

As I understand it Israelis have made more than 4000 sorties and there are a small number of high profile incidents of a horrific nature. They are a small proportion of the total attacks – which can be indicative of intelligence failings or human error. Despite the Israelis military prowess, they cannot be expected to wage a perfect war, and indeed there have been friendly fire incidents. There is no convincing evidence that the targetting of civilians is a deliberate policy and the Israelis could do much more damage if that was their policy. Attacks on civilians give zero military advantage (since the Israelis are as aware as anybody else that Hezbollah do not care about civilian deaths – and point of fact invite them by driving missile launchers into housing developments) and increase diplomatic pressure on Israel (which directly damage their ability to end the conflict at an advantageous position).

None of this means that the Israelis are not under an obligation to avoid civilian deaths, and I am personally of the same opinion as Norman Geras that the Israelis have been far too reliant on the idea that merely telling scared, and poor, people to move on out of danger zones is an inadaquate precaution to prevent civilian deaths.

However, that said, it is a sad consequence of military action that civilian deaths do occur, and that happens without deliberate targetting of civilians. Can you say “Israel has a right to defend themselves” and then hold them up to a standard of accuracy in warfare that no nation on earth could live up to?

43

Dan Simon 08.04.06 at 4:28 pm

Evidence of this “extraordinary care” please?

How about the 48-hour suspension of air force bombing of Hezbollah targets, pending investigation of a single alleged incident of an Israeli bomb hitting a civilian target? As far as I know, such a suspension for the sake of investigating a case of civilian casualties is completely unprecedented in the annals of warfare.

Have you not read the HRW report?

Frankly, I’d say HRW didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory in their investigation of the “Gaza beach incident”. I’ll wait for word from less credulous investigators before passing judgment.

44

Elliott Oti 08.04.06 at 4:35 pm

There is no convincing evidence that the targetting of civilians is a deliberate policy and the Israelis could do much more damage if that was their policy.

No, but there is convincing evidence that Israel deliberately targets purely civilian and dual-use infrastructure (airports, dams, power plants, highways), and that this targetting is not incidental, but primary.

45

Dan Simon 08.04.06 at 4:42 pm

Hezbollah, whatever it has in its platform, is not trying to drive Israeli civilians out of Galilee through terror rocketing. It has no hope of doing so, and it doesn’t really have any territorial ambitions in Israel, which would be absurd and unrealistic.

In other words, its official position, regular proclamations of intent, and current military actions, all demonstrate that one of their key goals is to drive Israeli civilians out of the Galilee (all of Israel, in fact). But because you don’t think they can manage it, that must not be their intent.

I’m curious–is there anything, anything at all, that Hezbollah could possibly do that might convince you that they mean what they constantly say? Or is your mind simply closed to that possibility?

Hezbollah thinks one way to stop IDF attacks is to retaliate against Israeli civilians, using weapons it knows the IDF can’t stop.

So just what was Hezbollah doing when it launched that raid into Israeli territory on July 12th, accompanied by a barrage of rockets on an Israeli border town? Attempting to deter the counterattack it expected in response? Again, is there anything–anything at all–that Hezbollah could do that might persuade you of its aggressive intentions towards Israel? Or would, say, a nuclear attack simply be more “deterrence of Israeli aggression”?

46

engels 08.04.06 at 4:47 pm

James – I am aware that (positive) international law has a different provenance and scope from domestic law: I’m afraid I can’t see what this has to do with the point I was making.

47

Elliott Oti 08.04.06 at 4:48 pm

Dan wrote:
In other words, its official position, regular proclamations of intent, and current military actions, all demonstrate that one of their key goals is to drive Israeli civilians out of the Galilee (all of Israel, in fact). But because you don’t think they can manage it, that must not be their intent.

Contradictory as it may seem, I think that’s essentially correct. Hezbollah does not now, and will not have in the foreseeable future, the ability to drive Israeli civilians out of all Israel. Whatever the rank and file may think, Hezbollah leadership knows this very well.

48

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 4:55 pm

“Unfortunately, as nearly every military expert knows, precision weapons are not that precise — and a miscue of even ten meters can make a huge difference. This is what happened at Qana. Nor, it seems, do IDF officers take seriously the more graphic defense of IAF targeting, as justified because Hezbollah uses human shields. Israel also co-locates many of its basing operations in cities and amongst the civilian population — simply because of the ease of logistics operations that such co-locations necessitate.”The human shield argument just doesn’t wash and we know it,” an IDF commander says. “We don’t expect Hezbollah to deploy in the open with a sign that says ‘here we are.’ ” link

49

Andrew Edwards 08.04.06 at 5:16 pm

precision weapons are not that precise—and a miscue of even ten meters can make a huge difference. This is what happened at Qana.

I think there’s a real problem here where the US and Isreal love to brag and put footage on CNN about how precise their weapons are. So now everyone in the Arab world takes them at their word and believes the weapons are, in fact really prceise. And so when they miss by 10m, everyone in the Arab world assumes they didn’t miss.

Maybe if the US and Isreal started saying “actually our bombs kinda suck, but we’re doing our best” things would be better than saying “our bombs are teh awesome!”

50

Dan Simon 08.04.06 at 5:18 pm

Hezbollah does not now, and will not have in the foreseeable future, the ability to drive Israeli civilians out of all Israel. Whatever the rank and file may think, Hezbollah leadership knows this very well.

Again, I’ll ask: Is there anything–anything at all–that Hezbollah or its leaders could ever possibly do to convince you that they believe otherwise? Or is this assessment of their intentions simply an empirically unfalsifiable belief–a matter of faith, as it were?

51

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 5:26 pm

“So just what was Hezbollah doing when it launched that raid into Israeli territory on July 12th, accompanied by a barrage of rockets on an Israeli border town? Attempting to deter the counterattack it expected in response? Again, is there anything—anything at all—that Hezbollah could do that might persuade you of its aggressive intentions towards Israel? Or would, say, a nuclear attack simply be more “deterrence of Israeli aggression”?

Hezbollah said they has expected the usual response to the kidnapping. They were intended for bargaining. The rocket barrage occurred later. The Israelis have been planning this operation for over a year. waiting for an excuse. Also: On June 24 Israel kidnapped two men in Gaza (they also have a long history of kidnappings, in Lebanon and the occupied territories) And do you think this has absolutely nothing to do with the occupation or the refusal of Israel or the US to accept the democratic process that brought Hamas into government? Israel has crossed the Blue Line 11,000 plus times since 2000. This is all on record.
The Israelis are now destroying the god damn country.

It is in the interest of conservative zionists to argue that their enemies want to wipe them off the map. Rhetoric aside this argument is absurd. Israel has the bomb. As I said above:
The issue is the contempt of Israel for it’s neighbors, and the racism of the right of return -for people like me?!- that has sent families out of their homes. Why no binational state? The refusal of discussion is itself acknowledgment of the secondary status of Israeli Arabs. Why the logic of Haidar and Le Pen? Mr Simon, please explain it to me as a jew. I’m having a lot of fun recently listening to Dixiecrat arguments from supposed liberals, so why not one from a Likudnik. Explain it to me.

Hezbollah has committed war crimes but imagine if the US had driven the Native American population of the mid and southwest into Mexico where they were stuck in refugee camps for 50 years. Imagine the US bombing of Mexico City.

Oh Yes, but the Jews are a special case.
No we are not.

52

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 5:29 pm

dash=strikethrough
I will never learn.

53

Kevin Donoghue 08.04.06 at 5:37 pm

Can anyone demonstrate that Israeli targetting is any worse than US or UK targetting in recent conflicts?

Judging from the admittedly scrappy information we have about actions in Iraq, it seems likely that Israel is doing better than the US. (But hey, the Americans do better than the Russians.) What UK actions do you have in mind?

There is no convincing evidence that the targetting of civilians is a deliberate policy….

I think you may be targetting a straw man there. I haven’t heard anyone allege that the IAF sets out to kill civilians. But there is plenty of evidence that they take very little care to avoid killing them. The HRW report is a good place to start; note, in particular, the published comments of Israeli officials.

54

Elliott Oti 08.04.06 at 5:48 pm

Dan Simon wrote:
Hezbollah does not now, and will not have in the foreseeable future, the ability to drive Israeli civilians out of all Israel. Whatever the rank and file may think, Hezbollah leadership knows this very well.

Again, I’ll ask: Is there anything—anything at all—that Hezbollah or its leaders could ever possibly do to convince you that they believe otherwise? Or is this assessment of their intentions simply an empirically unfalsifiable belief—a matter of faith, as it were?

I do not believe you actually read what I wrote.

I wrote that Hezbollah does not have the ability to drive Israeli civilians out of all Israel. This is not speculation. This is an empirical fact.

I wrote that Hezbollah will not have this ability in the foreseeable future. This is speculation, but informed speculation, and essentially undisputed speculation.

I know this. You know this. Hezbollah leadership knows this. Think what you will of their morals, but they are perfectly capable of assesing Israel’s military capabilities.

What part of this do you not understand?

55

Kevin Donoghue 08.04.06 at 5:54 pm

I do not believe [Dan Simon] actually read what I wrote.

Elliott, a glance upthread will surely convince you that he hasn’t read the HRW report either. He’s trolling, as usual. If and when his comments are deleted, it will be hard to make sense of your’s.

56

Dan Simon 08.04.06 at 5:58 pm

Hezbollah said they has expected the usual response to the kidnapping. They were intended for bargaining. The rocket barrage occurred later.

No, the initial barrage (on the town of Shlomi) accompanied the original attack. It was of course expanded later, to include a large number of Israeli towns and cities.

It is in the interest of conservative zionists to argue that their enemies want to wipe them off the map. Rhetoric aside this argument is absurd.

Okay, I’ll ask you, as well: is there anything–anything at all–that Hezbollah could do to convince you that it does, indeed, want to wipe Israel off the map? You see, I can’t think of a single thing they might do in that regard that they haven’t already done. So if they haven’t convinced you yet, I’m inclined to suspect that you’re simply beyond the reach of empirical evidence.

Why no binational state?

I’m not sure what you mean by “binational state”, but if it means changes to various Israeli laws, the obvious answer is that the Israeli voting public prefers the laws as they are. For a guy who whines about the “refusal of Israel or the US to accept the democratic process that brought Hamas into government”, you sure don’t have much respect for Israeli democracy.

Of course, if you mean something more far-reaching than changes to various Israeli laws–say, a conquest followed by the imposition of a new political system and a massive demographic influx from abroad–well, then your intentions are not all that different from those I attribute to Hezbollah, and I wonder why you have so much trouble accepting that their goals aren’t all that far from yours.

imagine if the US had driven the Native American population of the mid and southwest into Mexico where they were stuck in refugee camps for 50 years.

The reason there are still people stuck in refugee camps in Lebanon after 50 years is that Lebanon refuses to allow citizenship to third-and fourth-generation Lebanese-born Arabs of Palestinian extraction, confining them instead to squalid refugee camps.

Imagine the US bombing of Mexico City.

You don’t know much American history, do you?

57

abb1 08.04.06 at 6:01 pm

I haven’t heard anyone allege that the IAF sets out to kill civilians.

Hmm, I thought that was a pretty common allegation. They tell people to leave and then hit their cars on the roads as they flee. They hit an ambulance. They killed the UN observers who were sitting there in the same bunker for 20 years.

I thought that was the whole idea: to destroy some property and kill some people so that they all realize that messing with Israel is not good for them. Similar to the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. Plus some domestic benefit for the ruling coalition.

Elliott,
I wrote that Hezbollah does not have the ability to drive Israeli civilians out of all Israel. This is not speculation. This is an empirical fact.

I’m not sure I agree. I don’t know what exactly Dan meant there, but perhaps their hope is that if a couple of million Israelis decide that it’s not worth the trouble and move back to their Zhmerinkas, the whole thing might unravel. And it’s not that far-fetched.

58

Elliott Oti 08.04.06 at 6:15 pm

abb1
I’m not sure I agree. I don’t know what exactly Dan meant there, but perhaps their hope is that if a couple of million Israelis decide that it’s not worth the trouble and move back to their Zhmerinkas, the whole thing might unravel. And it’s not that far-fetched.

Oh I don’t doubt the Hezbollah rank-and-file thinks something along those lines. Indeed I’d think they more or less have to.

59

bluto 08.04.06 at 6:21 pm

#51

I believe the official position is that Zionists are usurpers, invaders, occupiers etc. and that Hezbollah stands in solidarity with the Palestinian cause (good for them) but would not sabotage a peace. Nasrallah himself has said he is prepared to accept a two-state settlement between Israel and Palestine. Meanwhile Israel exists and a Palestinian state does not, still. So the consequential political question about empirically un-falsifiable beliefs is whether Israel recognizes a right of Palestinian statehood, not some other way around.

60

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 6:26 pm

1 You’re right, but an attack on an artillery position as part of an operation is not the same thing as the shelling of civilians.

2 You don’t read much, your don’t pay attention to Arab or Palestinian public opinion and you like to argue from your own angry willful ignorance. Therefore we have nothing to discuss.
I’ll let Elliot Oti do that.

3 The Israeli voting public is only there because people were thrown off their land. Let the Palestinian refugees vote too.
Respect for Israeli democracy? No very little.

4 “conquest followed by the imposition of a new political system and a massive demographic influx from abroad”
That’s already happened, hasn’t it? (and I’ve amazed you let that sentence slip by)

5 “Lebanese-born Arabs of Palestinian extraction”
More of the same. I have no civil response.

6 “Imagine the US bombing of Mexico City.”
Yeah, well. But I was thinking of F16s

You defend racism with racist arguments.
I’ve made my case.

61

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 6:36 pm

62

koshem 08.04.06 at 7:26 pm

Here are the thinks I learned the last four weeks:

1. Everyone is an expert on international law in general and war crime in particular.
2. Everyone is a military expert with specialization in Middle East wars.
3. Everyone’s morals are perfect.
4. Israel has an excellent reputation with the French.
5. Hezbollah does not, I repeat, does not fight a proxy war for Iran.
6. Everyone’s comments are well thought out, balanced and above average.

Finally, if I didn’t know why there is so little peace on earth all I have to do is read well balanced blogs such as this one.

63

Dan Simon 08.04.06 at 7:56 pm

I wrote that Hezbollah does not have the ability to drive Israeli civilians out of all Israel. This is not speculation. This is an empirical fact.

I wrote that Hezbollah will not have this ability in the foreseeable future. This is speculation, but informed speculation, and essentially undisputed speculation.

On the contrary, Hezbollah disputes your “speculation” all the time. Constantly. Consistently.

I know this. You know this. Hezbollah leadership knows this. Think what you will of their morals, but they are perfectly capable of assesing Israel’s military capabilities.

They are, but their assessment may in fact differ markedly from yours. Is this utterly inconceivable to you?

64

Dan Simon 08.04.06 at 8:13 pm

1 You’re right, but an attack on an artillery position as part of an operation is not the same thing as the shelling of civilians.

Indeed. (And I’m amazed you let that sentence slip by.)

I have no civil response.

Indeed.

65

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 9:08 pm

I don’t condemn Israeli policy because I celebrate Hamas, or Hezbollah. You do the reverse; and that’s irresponsible and immoral.

The invasion was started after a small military operation which Israel has used as an excuse to send more than half a million people from their homes and to destroy the infrastructure of an already unstable country. The attack was planned over a year ago, all that was needed was an excuse.

You defend all this- everything!- by saying that we both have the right to land in Israel, more right than the families that still have the deeds, though they now live somewhere else.
And you talk to me about morality? Civility?

You’re a German demanding Lebensraum in the east.

“Israel has almost succeeded in doing what the Germans and the rest of Europe failed to do: destroy Jewish culture.”

I no longer care.

66

anonymous 08.04.06 at 9:20 pm

No. Israel is not committing “war crimes”.

Hezbollah, and it’s sponsers, Syrian, Iran
and Lebanon are guilty of war crimes. They
have caused or aided and abetted the launching
of military grade rockets against purely
civilian targets. If they are “defensive”
in nature, why have none of those rockets
been fired against the Israeli troops in
Lebanon?

I waded through the documents on the Human
Rights Watch website. The “witnesses” were
all either Hezbollah members, supporters, or
under Hezbollah “protection”. Therefore
either biased or speaking under duress.

As the HRW being taken to sites that have
no sign of “weapons” … well duh! Do you
really think Hezbollah would take them to
locations that haven’t yet been cleansed of
their “military” or terror assets? Obviously
many of you do.

Purely imaginary rockets falling on Israeli civilians as per Fisk.

Just suppose the Israelis said “The jets are
really from Syria, just displaying our
National Markings.” And they took HRW
to an airfield with only civilian airplanes
as proof. “See … Israel doesn’t even
HAVE an Air Force!”

The anti-Israel types would scream about
a Mossad inspired ham-handed propaganda
effort.

Yet, when Hezbollah terrorists do that same
thing, most on this web-site accept it
without question.

67

engels 08.04.06 at 10:02 pm

The “witnesses” were all either Hezbollah members, supporters, or under Hezbollah “protection”…

As the HRW being taken to sites that have no sign of “weapons” … well duh! Do you really think Hezbollah would take them to locations that haven’t yet been cleansed of their “military” or terror assets?

Anonymous – why do you hate inverted commas?

68

Dan Simon 08.04.06 at 10:30 pm

You’re a German demanding Lebensraum in the east.

DSquared, the other day you castigated me for “nasty little insinuations” of anti-Semitism, saying, “[i]f you are going to accuse other people of being anti-Semites or allies of terrorists, do so openly and specifically.” Is this the sort of thing you had in mind?

Now, it’s not really my style to go around bluntly calling people Nazis or anti-Semites or pro-terrorist or whatever, but if that’s what you think best for your chunk of CT, I’m willing to respect it. I take your warnings seriously, and I definitely don’t want to be accused of “nasty little insinuations” anymore–even if it means being as blunt with the likes of Seth as he is with me.

Then again, if I’ve misunderstood you, please let me know–thanks.

69

Jack 08.04.06 at 10:30 pm

In a comment to a previous post Dan Kervick suggested that Israel is resigned to fighting its enemies in perpetuity and that it will die if it stops fighting.

Such a position would be understandable and as a summary of the nation’s thinking I fear it is correct. That has a bearing on the justice of the current war on Lebanon. If lasting peace broke out tomorrow Olmert might count as some sort of genius.

If, as seems more likely, this just upsets more people and kicks the problem of an aggressive neighbour a few years into the future before the process has to be repeated, it looks much less forgiveable.

Worse, it looks unwise even from a narrow Israeli interest even assuming that interest doesn’t value non-Israeli lives. Demographics and time are not on Israel’s side in its conflict with established and active enemies. Maintaining good relations with Israel is becoming more politically expensive in well behaved countries such as Egypt and until there is more peace in the middle East oil money will flow to hostile people.

I thought it received wisdom that Sharon shared such an analysis and he was meeting the challenge by imposing a peace unilaterally, hence the withdrawal from Gaza and so on. The current action makes it more likely that a change in relationship will be catastrophic. It looks like a gambler’s ruin or living by the sword and Olmert is being weak and procrastinating by failing to accept such realities.

This war shares with the war in Iraq a lack of publicly defined aim. Recovering kidnapped soldiers, degrading Hezbollah’s capacity, self-defence and so on have all been mentioned but also overtaken by events. Without such a commitment there is no accountability at home or elsewhere.

If the goal was the introduction of an international peace keeping force in some kind of buffer zone, that would surely have been easier before the war. If self defence in the short term it has backfired sectacularly. If the return of the two soldiers it has been ineffective and counterproductive and provided perverse incentives.

Without an aim, defenders of the war are buying a goat in a sack. An appeal to rights of self defence are not enough on their own.

70

Seth Edenbaum 08.04.06 at 10:39 pm

I am not insinuating I am stating: In my opinion, Mr. Simon, your position can only be defined as racist.

If my calling you German was out of line, I apologize to you and DD.

71

Donald Johnson 08.04.06 at 11:46 pm

Daniel, I’m surprised that you think Israel’s behavior in this war is significantly different from their behavior in either the recent or more distant past. They were if anything far more ruthless in the 1982 war and they’ve been pretty careless with their bombs in Lebanon both before and after 1982. Amnesty International and a Dutch general investigating for the UN both thought their previous slaughter at Qana in 1996 looked deliberate. In the current intifada they’ve killed more civilians than militants and in the fighting in the spring of 2002 Amnesty International and HRW said they were guilty of war crimes. And Israel is a Jewish state because of massive war crimes in 1948 (not that their enemies wouldn’t have committed similar crimes if they’d won).

And of course there’s Sharon’s whole career to consider. A country which is as fanatical about its purity of arms as Israel pretends to be wouldn’t have allowed Sharon to run around loose, let alone finally elected him Prime Minister.

I get equally frustrated with people who talk as though America never had any connection with torture until Bush came along. It seems to be a rule of etiquette that when criticizing a democratic country for war crimes they are currently committing, you are supposed to make the criticism more palatable by pretending that the current atrocities are incompatible with their previous glorious tradition of scrupulous adherence to the laws of war.

72

Donald Johnson 08.04.06 at 11:48 pm

Keep forgetting to type in my correct email address. Done.

73

Donald Johnson 08.05.06 at 12:10 am

It occurs to me that going through a short history of Israel’s sins might be violating some CT code about not rehashing every crime committed by one side or the other when the I/P topic comes up. If so, sorry, but it seemed relevant. If someone had said that Hezbollah’s indiscriminate rocket attacks were squandering their moral credibility, I imagine we’d all scratch our heads in unison and wonder what credibility was being squandered. The same is true here. Israel drops bombs on civilians in Lebanon. This is supposed to be a break from past practice?

74

Elliott Oti 08.05.06 at 12:54 am

Dan Simon wrote:
On the contrary, Hezbollah disputes your “speculation” all the time. Constantly. Consistently.

Now I’m getting a litle tired of this exchange, Dan.

If Hezbollah military leadership had both the will and the means to drive all Israelis from Israel, they would have already done so.

They have not, thus they lack either the will, the means, or both.

They may “constantly, consistently” proclaim otherwise publicly but this does not alter the facts one iota.

Their assessment [of Israel’s military capabilities] may in fact differ markedly from yours. Is this utterly inconceivable to you?

Their assessment can differ markedly from mine in two ways:

(i) They overestimate Israeli military strength. This means that they are even more convinced than I am that they cannot overrun Israel.

(ii) They underestimate Israeli military strength. This is possible. However the (lack of) results of the current campaign to date, and remarks by IDF commanders and international analysts, indicate that Hezbollah was well-prepared for the Israeli attack. This indicates, on the leadership level, Hezbollah’s ability to accurately assess the military capacity of Israel. It certainly does not indicate a structural and fundamental underestimation of Israel’s abilities relative to theirs.

75

Dan Simon 08.05.06 at 1:35 am

(ii) They underestimate Israeli military strength. This is possible. However the (lack of) results of the current campaign to date, and remarks by IDF commanders and international analysts, indicate that Hezbollah was well-prepared for the Israeli attack. This indicates, on the leadership level, Hezbollah’s ability to accurately assess the military capacity of Israel. It certainly does not indicate a structural and fundamental underestimation of Israel’s abilities relative to theirs.

Presumably Hezbollah’s leaders didn’t expect to be able to hold off the Israeli army’s initial all-out assault, once it occurred. That doesn’t mean they don’t believe that a long-term attrition strategy won’t eventually cause Israel to collapse like a “spider’s web”.

76

abb1 08.05.06 at 3:39 am

Dan #28:

Okay, Daniel, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that it’s been established that neither side in this conflict is abiding by the officially defined standards for the conduct of war. Now what? What do you propose that the “community of nations” (if indeed such a thing can even be said to exist) ought to do in response?

Well, perhaps these nation could use this new knowledge to write some more meaningful newspaper articles and headlines? Instead of the usual stuff.

77

Brendan 08.05.06 at 5:01 am

‘That doesn’t mean they don’t believe that a long-term attrition strategy won’t eventually cause Israel to collapse like a “spider’s web”.’

I suppose the example here would be the Afghanistan war. It’s certainly the closest analogy.

But one quick look at it will show that the example evaporates like, ahem, a spider’s web in the rain and wind.

1: Afghanistan was highly unusual. Most countries that lose wars of insurgency (France, the UK, the US in Vietnam) do not actually cease to exist afterwards. On the contrary, most of them actually bounce back quickly and end up being much better off after the war than before.

2: For this example to be meaningful you would have to claim that the SOLE reason for the USSR’s collapse was Afghanistan and that if Afghanistn had not happened the USSR would still be here (a remarkable proposition, and one not believed by most experts in the subject)

3: The ‘Soviet Union’ did cease to exist. But let’s get a sense of proportion here. The ‘Soviet Union’ after all, was simply a name people used for ‘Russia’. RUSSIA didn’t cease to exist. It’s like saying that because Burma has changed her name to Myanmar, that therefore Burma has ceased to exist.

Of course, the counter argument is that it doesn’t matter what ‘is’ the case it’s what Hizbollah believe to be the case. But who gives a shit? In international affairs it’s what IS the case that matters not what people believed. Bush believed that there were WMDs in Iraq. He was wrong about that. He also (apparently) believed that he could quickly transform Iraq into a peaceful democracy like Sweden. He was wrong about that, too. The US is the richest, most powerful state the world has ever seen. The US nonetheless failed to turn their rhetoric into reality. This goes doubly for a (comparatively) poor guerilla movement like Hizbollah. If Hizbollah actually believe that they can ‘defeat’ Israel (i.e. make it cease to exist) via a strategy of attrition, then best of luck to them but it ain’t EVER going to happen.

Dan Simon writes: ‘They are, but their assessment may in fact differ markedly from yours. ‘

True but who gives a shit? They’re just wrong. Everyone knows it and if they think otherwise they are as deluded as Bush (no mean feat).

There is a fundamental point here. Various people went ballistic on this blog a few weeks ago (not least Oliver Kamm) because Chomsky suggested that we should look not at what people say but what they do and what they are capable of doing. Kamm seemed to think this was akin to blasphemy, Islamo-nazism and whatever. But it is certainly true. On the contrary, in my opinion, anyone who thinks differently is nuts. Various ‘Islamofascists’ may well indicate their desire to ‘obliterate’ Israel. Again, so what? I can sit here and say ‘I can fly! With my huge feathery wings!’. That statement neither makes my wings, nor the ability to fly, any more real.

Hizbollah’s statements about their aims should be ignored. Ipso facto, Israeli statements about the IDF being ‘the most moral army in the world’ should be taken about as seriously as Hitler’s similar claims about the German Army. Rhetoric doesn’t matter. Words don’t matter. Deeds, actions, facts on the ground: these matter.

Surely this at least is completely obvious to everyone?

78

Kevin Donoghue 08.05.06 at 6:41 am

Israeli statements about the IDF being ‘the most moral army in the world’ should be taken about as seriously as Hitler’s similar claims about the German Army.

Brendan,

You are losing the run of yourself, to put it mildly. Wherever the IDF may stand in the Moral Armies league table, there’s an awful lot of entries below it and quite a few before you get to the Wehrmacht, even if the SS is excluded.

Also, words do matter. The fact words like “reprisal” cause Israelis a certain anguish puts pressure on them to exercise some restraint in a very fraught situation. That’s why you see such resistance to the idea that the word accurately describes the deed.

79

Brendan 08.05.06 at 7:32 am

Er…no Kevn it’s you who is losing the run of yourself. Here’s a statement which is an accurate precis of what I said.

‘Statements made by military spokesmen are irrelevant. Specific subjects about which their statements are irrelevant include, military successes, assessments as to how well their army is doing, and the morality of the army on whose behalf they are speaking. The only accurate guage of these issues is not rhetoric from either side, but the facts on the ground.’

Now that’s clearly what I was saying. Now this is what you thought I said (although I clearly neither said nor implied it):

‘The IDF is morally identical to the Wehrmacht’.

Do you see the difference?

‘Also, words do matter’. No they don’t, unless there is an overwhelming reason to think that they do. When Israel threatens to bomb Beirut this matters because I know they can and because they have done similar things in the past. When Hizbollah threatens to bomb Tel Aviv, that depends entirely on whether they have the weapons to do this. They might: they might not, I don’t know. But merely the fact that they said it by itself is irrelevant.

Likewise threats by Hizbollah etc. to ‘eliminate’ Israel (or whatever it is) don’t upset or surprise me. They don’t even interest me. It’s just words. So what? They have neither the technical or political ability to do so, and they never will, so that’s the end of the story. Their rhetoric should be of no more interest to any sane person than a schizophrenic’s claim that he is Napoleon or Jesus Christ.

Ipso facto, Israel’s claims to not be invading Lebanon (when they clearly are) and not to be destroying Lebanon (when they clearly are) and not to be targetting civilians (when they clearly are) should equally be completely ignored.

Words are nothing, actions everything.

80

zdenek 08.05.06 at 8:13 am

The HRW report strikes me as muddled and to some extent half baked in its conclusions. It shifts between ‘evidence suggests that IDF intentionally targets civilians’ and ‘war crimes have been commited by IDF’. These are two different claims ( one weak and the other strong) and you dont establish the stronger one i.e. that war crimes have infact taken place by establishing the weaker one i.e. that there is some evidence that war crimes have taken place.
The problem of course ( and this is tacitly recognized by the report )is that you cannot establish unlawfulness ( and hence you cannot establish commission of war crime ) if you do not check out whether Israeli commanders responsible for choosing the targets and ok-ing them acted in good faith and what intelligence was available to them. Without looking at this question you simply dont establish unlawfulness.
What dissapoints is the air of intellectual dishonesty involved in establishing the weaker claim only but pretending ( or at least fudging the distinction ) that the stronger case has been established .

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Seth Edenbaum 08.05.06 at 9:35 am

Read Juan Cole.

82

Ragout 08.05.06 at 11:17 am

The problem with the HRW report is that its definition of war crimes is based on Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions, which Israel hasn’t signed. Nor has the US, and many western European countries have signed it only with a long list of reservations. All these countries saw Protocol 1 as being too favorable to guerrillas. So, Israel may be doing bad things, violating Catholic Just War doctrine, or whatever, but war crimes? It’s ridiculous.

Even more ridiculous was D^2’s earlier post, which also implicitly relied on Protocol 1. It accused Hezbollah of violating a treaty it isn’t eligible to sign, in a conflict against a country that hasn’t signed it either.

83

Donald Johnson 08.05.06 at 11:45 am

Well, ragout, the whole concept of war crimes is probably ridiculous. Not that I want to throw it out, but in practice there’s no court that can enforce them against the powerful, so the rules are only applied to the defeated and to relatively low-ranking people for PR purposes. Until there is consistent enforcement, the accusation just means that under a set of rules we find just and reasonable, faction X is guilty of war crimes.

84

Jack 08.05.06 at 11:58 am

Ragout,
Is getting away with it all that matters?

The Geneva conventions provide an explicit, stable and detached yardstick or definition of best practice for measuring legitimacy of war actions.

De facto legality can be settled more simply by considering whether the Security Council will allow any action against Israel. Justice ought to be important to someone even if injustices will go unpunished.

Offhand dismissal of “Catholic Just War doctrine” is quite obnoxious if you don’t propose an alternative measure.

85

Ragout 08.05.06 at 12:33 pm

I think that Israel should follow the 4 Geneva Conventions, and Hague Convention, and other treaties they’ve signed, which of course they do. These treaties have proved to be *workable* means of reducing the harms of war, discouraging guerrilla activity, and achieving other good things. An example of what I mean by workable as that many countries follow the Conventions and treat prisoners of war decently not only for moral reasons, but because they want other their enemies to reciprocate, and because they want to encourage enemy soldiers to surrender.

As far as I can tell, banning “reprisals,” and demanding “proportionality,” would simply mean banning war. Was the US response to Pearl Harbor “proportional?” Was it a “reprisal?” Has there ever been a war without reprisals? While it might be nice to ban war, treaties to do that have proved unworkable.

So these alleged laws of war have done nothing at all to reduce the harms of war, and I think the constant invocation of bogus laws of war has caused some harm, by making the real laws of war seem ridiculous.

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Kevin Donoghue 08.05.06 at 12:49 pm

Brendan,

Granted, the Rice-Davies critique applies. The IDF should be judged by its deeds not its rhetoric. But to say that Statement A “should be taken about as seriously as” Statement B, ordinarily means that the two statements are about equally likely to be true. Evidently what you meant was that IDF protestations of virtue add nothing to the available evidence. Fair enough, but your way of making that point was a bit repulsive IMHO.

87

abb1 08.05.06 at 3:08 pm

A more comprehensive view of the whole situation (via Maxspeak) here.

This I did not know:

In June 2006, Ayatollah Khamenei issued an official declaration stating that Iran agrees with the Arab countries on the issue of Palestine, meaning that it accepts the 2002 Arab League call for full normalization of relations with Israel in a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus. The timing suggests that this might have been a reprimand to his subordinate Ahmadenijad, whose inflammatory statements are given wide publicity in the West, unlike the far more important declaration by his superior Khamenei.

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Brendan 08.05.06 at 3:14 pm

‘The timing suggests that this might have been a reprimand to his subordinate Ahmadenijad, whose inflammatory statements are given wide publicity in the West, unlike the far more important declaration by his superior Khamenei.’

This of course backs up my point. Israeli nationalists are fond of quoting Ahmadenijad’s wilder statements as though this proves something or other. But who gives a shit? He has no power. There is zero chance that his wild statements will ever become official Iranian policy (although Israeli nationalists invariably imply they already are). Even if they did they chance that Iran would ever act on these statements is close to zero, and the chance that they could ever be fulfilled is precisely zero. So why is our time being wasted by having these irrelevancies drawn to our attention?

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Beryl 08.05.06 at 3:49 pm

Whether or not they rise to the level of “war crimes”, it seems fairly evident that Israel’s responses to Hezbollah have often been reckless. Like NATO in Kosovo and Serbia, they are putting civilians at risk in an effort to minimize their exposure. But, unlike NATO, Israel’s own civilians (in a cruel twist, many of them Arabs or Muslims) are daily targets of Hezbollah’s missiles (“rockets” makes them sound like a 4th of July celebration). Here is a telling report on what Israel is facing from today’s report on the raid in Tyre.

The apartment appeared to be a family residence. A framed photograph of a woman and a child was on a bedside table, and a wardrobe was full of men’s suits. Talcum powder stood on a table. In another room, a picture of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, was propped next to a computer — not at all unusual in this town, where his image is ubiquitous above couches and in town squares.
But Hezbollah fighters mingle smoothly with the population here, and after the fight, the apartment bore unmistakable signs that fighters had holed up in the building. The rooms were littered with rocket-propelled grenades, several launchers, a machine gun and ammunition. The Israelis had apparently fired into it, singing its walls. Blood and bullet marks scored the walls and floors…
Israeli officials said the raid focused on a Hezbollah command cell that was responsible for firing the two long-range rockets that hit the Israeli coastal town of Hadera on Friday…

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/06/world/middleeast/06mideast.html?

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Kevin Donoghue 08.05.06 at 3:50 pm

Ragout,

IANAL, but it seems to me it’s really too late in the day for non-signatories to be trying to duck out of Protocol 1. Isn’t there a consensus that it is now part of customary international law? Here’s what an ICRC lawyer (PDF file) has to say about it:

Examples of rules found to be customary and which have corresponding provisions in Additional Protocol I include: the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives; the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks; the principle of proportionality in attack; the obligation to take feasible precautions in attack and against the effects of attack; the obligation to respect and protect medical and religious personnel, medical units and transports, humanitarian relief personnel and the obligation to account for missing persons;objects, and civilian journalists; the obligation to protect medical duties; the prohibition of attacks on non-defended localities and demilitarized zones; the obligation to provide quarter and to safeguard an enemy hors de combat; the prohibition of starvation; the prohibition of attacks on objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population; the prohibition of improper use of emblems and perfidy; the obligation to respect the fundamental guarantees of civilians and persons hors de combat; and the specific protections afforded to women and children.

In any case, states are (and should be) bound by their own rhetoric to some degree. It won’t do for them to be flinging accusations of terrorism around when it suits and then, when they want to use terror themselves, saying: “But we didn’t sign the protocol!”

What’s the use of hypocrisy if it doesn’t impose some constraints?

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Dan Simon 08.05.06 at 4:29 pm

In June 2006, Ayatollah Khamenei issued an official declaration stating that Iran agrees with the Arab countries on the issue of Palestine, meaning that it accepts the 2002 Arab League call for full normalization of relations with Israel in a two-state settlement in accord with the international consensus.

You neglected to mention that you’re quoting Noam Chomsky here. Or did you realize what that would do to your claim’s credibility?

Here’s what Khamenei actually said:

We have friendly and good ties with the Arab world. The most important issue in Arab society is the Palestinian cause. On this issue, we speak openly about whatever they have in their hearts. We have a very clear and transparent position on the Palestinian cause and Arab nations like this position wholeheartedly. They feel proud when we voice that position.

So there you have it: Khamenei said that the Arab world agrees with him about Palestine, and Chomsky rephrased that as Khamenei agreeing with the Arab world, adding the wholly unwarranted inference that Khamenei endorses the 2002 Arab league proposal.

Nice try, though.

92

engels 08.05.06 at 5:41 pm

Jurisprudence for Dummies Chap. 1: refusal to recognise the law does not automatically place oneself outside the law.

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luc 08.05.06 at 5:52 pm

For those who ignore Chomsky, here’s another source for the issue of Iran accepting the Arab League proposal, an article in The American Prospect.

“The Iranian proposal also offered a sweeping reorientation of Iranian policy toward Israel. In the past, Iran had attacked those Arab governments that had supported the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and Tehran had supported armed groups that opposed it. But the document offered “acceptance of the Arab League Beirut declaration (Saudi initiative, two-states approach).””

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Dan Simon 08.05.06 at 8:31 pm

“The Iranian proposal also offered a sweeping reorientation of Iranian policy toward Israel. In the past, Iran had attacked those Arab governments that had supported the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and Tehran had supported armed groups that opposed it. But the document offered “acceptance of the Arab League Beirut declaration (Saudi initiative, two-states approach).””

Just to clarify, this “proposal” was part of an alleged secret Iranian diplomatic overture in May 2003, in the wake of the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It has nothing to do with Chomsky’s absurd nonsense about 2006, quoted above.

As for that 2003 proposal, it appears to have been for some sort of grand reconciliation between the US and Iran, of which Iranian moderation on the Arab-Israeli dispute was only one facet. We’ll never know if the whole thing was sincere, of course, because the Bush administration declined to pursue it. But ever since 1986, the credibility of secret negotiations with alleged Iranian “moderates” has been somewhat tarnished, so the Bush administration’s reluctance to bite is perhaps understandable.

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r4d20 08.06.06 at 1:17 am

“They have neither the technical or political ability to do so, and they never will, so that’s the end of the story.”

And you got your crystal ball where?

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Ragout 08.06.06 at 2:52 am

Kevin,

The ICRC has not found that all provisions of Protocol I are customary international law, only some of them. Of particular relevance to this discussion is the fact that reprisals (retaliation for the violation of the laws of war) are not forbidden by “customary” international law. For example, this textbook chapter says “These provisions [banning reprisals], however, are controversial and are not generally regarded as part of customary international law.”

Here’s a nice, brief article from a Red Cross journal that states the case well (though it’s certainly not an official RC statement).

The point is that, once officers and soldiers in Contracting States become accustomed to overlooking binding provisions of the Protocol because of their unrealistic nature, this will possibly — not to say probably — have a corrosive effect on today’s almost automatic readiness to follow the Geneva Conventions themselves. Let me be more specific. Take, by way of illustration, the Protocol’s comprehensive prohibition of attacks against civilians by way of reprisals (Article 51, para. 6). This injunction means that if Contracting State A commits atrocities against the civilian population of Contracting State B, the latter is not allowed to retaliate in kind against the civilian population of State A. But what do the framers of the Protocol expect State B to do? Turn the other cheek? That is a religious tenet rather than a serious military or political proposition. Since the Protocol does not provide State B with any practical alternative response, what is likely to happen is that Article 51, para. 6 will remain a dead letter and — notwithstanding the paragraphs’s lucid language — State B will resort to belligerent reprisals against the civilians of State A.

Engels,

I think you’ll find that international law is somewhat different than national criminal law. There isn’t a world government, or any world cops.

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Chris Bertram 08.06.06 at 3:39 am

ragout.

I’m not an international lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that the 4th Geneva Convention (Article 3) — which Israel is a party to — is pretty hot on non-combatant immunity and is indeed referred to in the HRW report. Taking reprisals against the civilian population for the actions of others is a clear violation of that general principle.

Is your point merely the narrow one that Israel isn’t legally bound by Protocol 1? If so, I’ll just point out that the rest of us (including HRW) are allowed to draw our own moral and political conclusions about states which view themselves as permitted to act in the ways prohibited by the Protocol. And, indeed, we can draw further conclusion about states that actually do act in ways prohibited by the Protocol. And about people on comments threads who are unconcerned about them doing so.

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Brendan 08.06.06 at 7:36 am

‘And you got your crystal ball where?’

Right. So you are seriously telling me that you think that a rag tag army of (perhaps) 3000 soldiers (other estimates go as low as 1000) armed with short range missiles, short range rockets and guns, might seriously, at some point, fight and overwhelm the forces of the most powerful military force in the Middle East which is armed with jets, helicopter gunships, a navy, and let’s not forget perhaps up to 200 nuclear weapons, and which is moreover, militarily backed by the United States, the most powerful military force the world has ever seen?

I mean really. Grow up. Israel (and by ‘Israel’ I mean Israeli forces within her own borders) face no serious military threat from Hizbollah and anyone who claims otherwise is demonstrating their lack of seriousness in facing up to these issues.

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Kevin Donoghue 08.06.06 at 9:32 am

100 comments! You can’t beat Israel as a topic.

Ragout,

Thanks for the links, I’ll read them when I get a chance. Meantime I will just say that, if “reprisals in kind” are permitted, the law will be invalidated quicker than a bus ticket. Suppose civilians are bombed. The air force may honestly believe they are combatants, so no law has actually been broken. It’s just a mistake. But can we seriously expect the side on the receiving end to accept that? They won’t; and if they are entitled to their reprisal, they can knowingly bomb civilians with a clear conscience. After that, there is no getting off the merry-go-round.

100

Seth Edenbaum 08.06.06 at 11:54 am

“But ever since 1986, the credibility of secret negotiations with alleged Iranian “moderates” has been somewhat tarnished…”

Whatever the reality of Khamenei’s statements in June, your equation of the recent proposals with Reagan’s moderates is absurd on it’s face. As you would say “nice try”

But lets go back a little, since this entire discussion is too academic, a byproduct of it’s being a conversation primarily among Americans.
Mr Simon, do you think the Palestinians have any right to be angry at all for what has happened to them over the past 50 years? Even some liberal zionists admit to a tragedy or a “disaster.”
Your continual protest over the evil of this or that act of war by Israel’s opponents and your refusal to engage with the people behind these acts as anything other than minions of the dark side is more a symptom than an argument. Until the current Israeli instigated crisis Hezbollah had killed 6 civilians since the year 2000. As Juan Cole says: “For this you would destroy a whole country?”

The discussion on this site is evenhanded to the point of uselessness, in the service of the moderate sensibilities of men who think that some things are too painful to discuss.

The present crisis in the mideast began with a crime of Europeans against their own, followed by a crime committed by Europeans against a group of their subject peoples. The Arabs owe the Jews no more than the what the Pope owes to Lutherans and Baptists. A majority of zionist moderates would seem to argue against these points, but I see no reason why moderates of any other stripe should feel obligated to respond to that with anything other than disdain and pity. Zionism was predicated on philosophically racist assumptions.
Zionism is racism. We should be able to begin with this fact and move on from there, in acceptance of demographic facts on the ground, both Jewish and Arab, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, Sunni and Shia.

What can be said about the fact that such discussion remains impossible, in this country or even on an academic site such as this?

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Ragout 08.06.06 at 1:33 pm

The HRW report describes two Israeli attacks on the Village of Srifa. The Israelis first attacked a school, eventually killing dozens of people in two strikes on July 13 and 19. HRW investigators “saw no signs of Hezbollah military activity in the village.”

HRW investigators were wrong.

Last Friday, a few days after the HRW visit, the Hezbollah commander for Srifa and two surrounding villages — a school teacher — took reporters on a tour of Srifa. He provided an explanation for HRW’s failure to detect any Hezbollah activity: “It’s not reasonable to walk around in military uniforms and carry rifles when, for example, the Red Cross comes into town.”

There are numerous fighters in the area, he told the Agence France Presse reporters. “I know my mission. I must make my rockets hit Israel,” said the Hezbollah commander.

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Brendan 08.06.06 at 3:14 pm

This crap about ‘mixing with civilian populations’ is one of those things that is SO stupid that the mind well and truly boggles. I don’t know about any of you guys, but I live in a more or less purely residential/suburban area. Now, literally round the corner from me is a TA (territorial army) base (i.e. a place they use to meet and do whatever it is they do). Is this an example of mixing, in a cowardly fashion, with the civilian population? What about schools that have army training as an option? I see schoolkids dressed up as soldiers all the time. Is this ‘cynically’ using schools as military bases? (or even more cynicaly using ‘child soldiers’?) Presumably these kids are taught by soldiers too. Is this another example of mixing with the civilian population? There is an army recruiting station in the High Street. You know where civilians go to shop. Is this (etc. etc. etc.)?

And we have recently discovered that many civilian airports in the US are in fact ‘dual use’: i.e. they are used to ship arms to foreign countries. Is this (etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.).

Moreover not all soldiers wear their uniforms all the time. Eh, duh. Even in Britain they take their uniforms off, when they, like, you know, change and go home and stuff.

However it seems that in order to fight fair Hizbollah must have bases clearly marked ‘Hizbollah base’ miles away from anywhere, preferably in the desert, easily viewable from the air. Perhaps they should also have big white crosses on the roofs of the buildings so that Israeli planes will know precisely what to aim for?

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s.e. 08.06.06 at 4:05 pm

Didn’t I link to this already on this thread?

Israel also co-locates many of its basing operations in cities and amongst the civilian population — simply because of the ease of logistics operations that such co-locations necessitate.”The human shield argument just doesn’t wash and we know it,” an IDF commander says. “We don’t expect Hezbollah to deploy in the open with a sign that says ‘here we are.’

link.
If I look I’ll find more references

104

Ragout 08.06.06 at 9:09 pm

The topic of Daniel’s post was “Israel’s War Crimes.” So I don’t think I’m being too legalistic and technical when I point out that the definition of war crimes offered by Daniel is bogus, and that Israel hasn’t violated any of the real laws of war. Specifically, Daniel writes that reprisals are “the carrying out of acts of violence against civilians in order to put pressure on their government to carry out some desired course of action,.” This definition of reprisals bears no relationship at all to the actual definition of reprisals in international law. But perhaps that’s too technical a point.

The biggest problem with this bogus claim is that after citing the (real) obligation to avoid intentional or excessive attacks on civilians, Daniel says there is “also” the duty to avoid reprisals, as if *any* violence against civilians intended to pressure a government was banned. But if this were so, and the laws of war forbid unintentional or proportionate violence against civilians in order to pressure a government, then *all* wars involve war crimes.

So, I’m sorry for interrupting the wonderful amounts of indignation on display here, but let me point out that this indignation is selective. Daniel essentially defines war to be a war crime, and then says Israel has committed war crimes. This is not a compelling criticism.

105

Dan Simon 08.06.06 at 11:31 pm

Mr Simon, do you think the Palestinians have any right to be angry at all for what has happened to them over the past 50 years?

They have a right to feel any way they please, I suppose. Do they have the right to engage in terrorism, however they might feel? No, of course not.

The present crisis in the mideast began with….

….an apple in a garden, as I recall. That you (1) insist on focusing on one very specifc historic grievance, to the exclusion of all others, (2) demand that it be “righted” via the abolition of a sixty-year-old sovereign, democratic state, against the will of the overwhelming majority of its current inhabitants; and (3) harp incessantly on the ethnic origins of the participants, as if their ethnicity determined their entitlement to particular pieces of territory in perpetuity, connects you far more closely to the fascist, racist, irredentist historical antecedents you’re so fond of linking me to.

Now, it’s true that there are many Jews who imagine themselves entitled to the ancient land of Israel because of their ancient religious connection to it. That feeling is of historical, religious and sentimental interest, of course–explaining, for example, why various Jewish refugee migrations directed themselves towards Palestine–but it carries about as much moral weight as–well, as the fixation of some third-generation Lebanese- or West Bank-born Arab of Palestinian descent with his grandfather’s tales of ancestral orange groves near Jaffa. Thank goodness only a tiny, despised minority of Jews would ever dream of deliberately harming so much as a single innocent child for the sake of that sort of “blood and soil” racist doctrine.

Zionism is racism. We should be able to begin with this fact and move on from there, in acceptance of demographic facts on the ground, both Jewish and Arab, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, Sunni and Shia.

If you had any appreciation of “demographic facts on the ground”, you’d recognize that Zionism, far from being racist, is simply a nationalism like any other, and its adherents are simply defending demographic facts on the ground, like the patriots of any other nation. The racists are those who wish to overturn those demographic facts, based on a particular ethnic group’s alleged historic right to a territory over which they in fact never exercised sovereignty–not even two thousand years ago.

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engels 08.06.06 at 11:39 pm

Israel hasn’t violated any of the real laws of war

Did you read the HRW report? Even if we allowed your obnoxious characterisation of Protocol 1 as not being “real” law, Israel is guilty, by causing unnecessary harm to civilians, of violating provisions of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and the proportionality requirement, which is customary international law.

As for the links you provided above: it’s putting it somewhat mildly to say that the negative opinion of Protocol 1 you linked to is not the ICRC official position. It’s from Prof. Yoram Dinstein of Tel Aviv University, who provided the single dissenting opinion from a panel of experts the ICRC convened in 1997. Even Dinstein concedes that

possibly about 85% of the provisions of the Protocol are non-controversial [as customary law]

The consensus of the experts they canvassed, and of legal opinion as a whole is closer to that of George Aldrich, US Ambassador to the 1977 Conference (taken from the same page)

Twenty years after the adoption of the Protocols by the 1974-1977 Geneva Conference, I remain unshaken in my belief that Protocol I represents a significant and responsible progressive development of international humanitarian law. There are presently 148 States party to the Protocol, and I believe that it largely represents customary international law today. The unfortunate fact that my own government seems unable to ratify it (or almost any multilateral treaty for that matter) may be of less importance than I would have thought twenty years ago.

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s.e. 08.07.06 at 12:09 am

Engels, go back to your women. It’s not worth it.
oy..

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engels 08.07.06 at 12:43 am

The racists are those who wish to overturn [demographic “facts on the ground”], based on a particular ethnic group’s alleged historic right to a territory over which they in fact never exercised sovereignty—not even two thousand years ago.

Umm, Dan, did you really mean to type that?

Actually, don’t answer that. Seth’s right: life is too short for this.

109

Dan Simon 08.07.06 at 2:33 am

Umm, Dan, did you really mean to type that?

Yes, of course I did. As you’d know if you’d actually bothered to read what I wrote, the current citizens of Israel aren’t entitled to their citizenship and sovereignty on the basis of a biblical promise or an ancient kingdom. They’re entitled based on “demographic facts on the ground”.

Whatever grand visions of historic justice people like Seth use to claim the current territory of Israel for a collection of people who have never lived there, they’re no more legitimate than a biblical promise or an ancient kingdom.

110

abb1 08.07.06 at 4:03 am

Well, it seems that the Europeans, the Ashkenazi, certainly don’t belong there by any imaginable criteria but the force of Western arms. As soon as they give up and depart, the rest should be able to sort it out.

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Ragout 08.07.06 at 7:56 am

Engels,

Some of Protocol I is customary international law. Other parts, such as the ban on reprisals, are not. Still less legitimate is Daniel’s version of the ban on reprisals, which is manufactured out of whole cloth.

I agree that it’s a legitimate issue whether Israel’s attacks have caused harm to civilians disproportionate to the military objectives is a real issue. The HRW report certainly didn’t demonstrate any violation though, because they only conducted a cursory investigation of the military issues, and hardly talked to Israel.

112

Chris Bertram 08.07.06 at 8:36 am

Engels and I have both mentioned Article 3. Article 33 of the 4th Geneva Convention could be added:

bq. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

It is hard to see how a policy of deliberately bombing civilian residential buildings in Beirut and elsewhere doesn’t amount to a breach of Article 33 and there are plenty of statements reported (including in Israeli papers like Haaretz) from the Israeli military that makes it clear that such a policy has been in effect.

113

Ragout 08.07.06 at 8:52 am

Article 3 and article 33 can’t both apply! The first applies to civil wars and the second to international conflicts.

Also, civilians in Beirut aren’t “protected persons,” since they’re not “in the hands of” Israel. You’re taking a provision which protects prisoners and people in occupied territory, and applying it to people in a war zone. But Israel obviously doesn’t have the same ability (or responsibility) to protect people in Beirut as it does to protect civilians who’ve fallen into its hands.

114

Daniel 08.07.06 at 9:22 am

Ragout, we are talking about customary international law here. The drafters of the Geneva Conventions did not anticipate a situation in which a state would attempt to act as if it were an occupying army in a country it did not in fact occupy, but the protections given in Art. 33 of the Fourth Convention surely suggest that there is a general norm that the intimidation of civilian populations to achieve a political end is not a legitimate use of violence. Otherwise we would have the ludicrous consequence that the civilians of a non-belligerent state which was not at war with another country had fewer protections against that second country’s army than they would if they were either at war with it or actually occupied by it!

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Daniel 08.07.06 at 9:23 am

But Israel obviously doesn’t have the same ability (or responsibility) to protect people in Beirut as it does to protect civilians who’ve fallen into its hands.

Of course it does; it could protect them simply by refraining from bombing their houses, dairies and power stations, and make a substantial fiscal saving into the bargain.

116

Ragout 08.07.06 at 9:42 am

Daniel,

Civilians of a non-belligerant state aren’t protected by the 4th Convention (unless they are prisoners or in the territory of a belligerent). The laws of war apply to war and not to peace, what’s ludicrous about that?

Also, if all civilians in Beirut are “protected persons” then we have the ludicrous result that Israel must insure that they “receive medical attention and hospital treatment to the same extent as” Israeli nationals (article 38).

117

David Sucher 08.07.06 at 9:52 am

“The drafters of the Geneva Conventions did not anticipate a situation in which a state would attempt to act as if it were an occupying army in a country it did not in fact occupy, …”

I don’t know your credentials “daniel” (is this Daniel Davies? or some other Daniel? It’s hard to tell.) but do you in fact have the knowledge to back-up such a statement? (Personally I don’t have an opinion — I am just curious whenever I hear someone making a sweeping statement about what yet others were intending.)

I assume that you must be basing your statement on background papers or testimony etc etc which you have reviewed so as to be able to gather the intentions of the framers? I hear so many claims here on CT that it’s hard to know who has any credibility and who does not.

I know that some people here have genuine knowledge within some academic fields. Others opine far beyond. Does your expertise truly extend to the Geneva Conventions and its origins? You speak with such authority on what was “anticpated” that I assume you must be an expert. Is that so? Are your statements of fact to be relied upon?

118

Chris Bertram 08.07.06 at 10:04 am

No doubt Daniel — who is indeed Daniel Davies — will speak for himself. But the general claim about the underlying principles that the drafters were trying to realize in particular provisions surely rests on the idea of non-combatant immunity. On this point see Michael Walzer, an authority on whom the defenders of Israel’s actions are very happy to rely when it suits them:

bq. The theoretical problem is not to describe how immunity is gained, but how it is lost. We are all immune to start with; our right not to be attacked is a feature of normal human relationships. ( _Just and Unjust Wars_ p. 145n.)

Perhaps Ragout (and David Sucher) would like to spell out their account of how ordinary residents of Beirut and of many villages and towns elsewhere in Lebanon came to lose their right not to be attacked.

119

Daniel 08.07.06 at 10:09 am

I’m basing it mainly on the HRW paper, plus an Amnesty International piece along the same lines which dropped into my mailbox.

Ragout, you earlier said:

Daniel essentially defines war to be a war crime

Which it is; it is the crime of aggression, the paramount war crime from which all others spring. The ICJ decision in US vs Nicaragua established that interference in the internal politics of another country is not a legitimate aim, and I think I am prgressing reasonably by arguing that this decision (based itself on the ICJ’s interpretation of international customary law, which I repeat is what we are talking about here) is based on similar underlying principles to the Articles mentioned which state that civilians are protected from reprisals or intimidation.

120

chew2 08.07.06 at 10:15 am

Steve and Sebastien,

“They tend to target pizza parlors and public buses. Whoda thunk it?

With weapons they can target, they often target civilians.”

In the last 10 years or more I don’t believe Hizbullah have carried out any terrorist type actions which specifically targeted civilians. They appear to behave more like a regular military organization.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry lists all Hizbullah attacks against Israel since the withdrawal in 2000. All the targeted attacks are against Israeli military targets. There is one ambush of civilians which is attributed to Hizbullah, but Israeli news articles at the time report that it was a Palestinian group which carried out that attack and claimed credit for the attack.

Hizbullah attacks along Israel’s northern border May 2000 – June 2006
http://www.mfa.gov.il/NR/exeres/9EE216D7-82EF-4274-B80D-6BBD1803E8A7,frameless.htm?NRMODE=Published

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Daniel 08.07.06 at 10:29 am

Aha, another message has dropped into my inbox. I have had it drawn to my attention that the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention are the places to look. Article 4 of Additional Protocol II prohibits “terrorism” or “collective punishment”, “at any time or in any place whatsoever”. Article 51 of Additional Protocol I says that “The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.” and “Attacks against the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited”

There is a specific war crime of reprisals and/or intimidation, which is not the same as the general prohibition on attacking civilians.

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james 08.07.06 at 11:01 am

The Fourth Geneva Convention: Article 4 Section 2:

“Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention are not protected by it. Nationals of a neutral State who find themselves in the territory of a belligerent State, and nationals of a co-belligerent State, shall not be regarded as protected persons while the State of which they are nationals has normal diplomatic representation in the State in whose hands they are.”

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james 08.07.06 at 11:03 am

daniel: No one on either side of this conflict has signed Protocol 1.

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Daniel 08.07.06 at 11:34 am

James: none of the former-Yugoslavia republics had signed the Conventions either, but the ICTY was nevertheless able to prosecute war crimes because the relevant provisions were held to be constitutive of principles of international customary law.

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Dan Simon 08.07.06 at 12:08 pm

Well, it seems that the Europeans, the Ashkenazi, certainly don’t belong there by any imaginable criteria but the force of Western arms. As soon as they give up and depart, the rest should be able to sort it out.

This is precisely the sort of nakedly, shamelessly racist argument I was talking about. The vast majority of the Ashkenazi Jews living in Israel “belong there” by the simple criterion that they were born there. That their ethnic credentials don’t live up to Abb1’s racial purity standard for residents of the region is hardly an argument for sane, decent people to support driving them out of their homes and sending them to countries where they don’t speak the language and have nothing in common with the locals.

Seth, are you seriously making common cause with this sort of openly racist, fascist “blood and soil” thinking?

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engels 08.07.06 at 1:49 pm

Most of Protocol 1 is customary international law. It is therefore binding on all states, including non-signatories like Israel and the US, whether or not they would like it to be.

The new provisions forbidding reprisals against the enemy’s civilian population, civilian objects and other objects are controversial and they are not generally held to be legally binding on non-signatories. (This leaves aside the issue of whether morality dictates they be respected. I think it is clear that it does.)

However, prior to Protocol 1, reprisals are forbidden against a range of targets, including the sick and wounded, civilians in occupied territory and POWs.

Reprisals must be carried out for the purpose of putting an end to violations of the law by the other party and must be proportionate to this end. If Israel’s attacks on Lebanese civilians and civilian infrastructure are to be considered reprisals for Hizbollah’s violations then it does not look likely that they meet these criteria.

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james 08.07.06 at 3:30 pm

Daniel & engel

The US does not recognize customary law as binding. It uses the standard of legal precedence. While I am not qualified to comment on the exact nature of this difference, it does effect how laws are interpreted. The US constitution also precludes the application of laws via treaty that have not been ratified by the Senate. This would include the attempt to apply Protocol 1 to the United States. One must conquer a nation to hold it accountable to a treaty it has not signed.

As to the question of war crimes in the current Hezbollah/Israeli conflict. Both sides have committed acts that are crimes under other nation states laws. It is unclear if either has committed any crimes under their own set of laws. Neither side seems willing to submit to the broader definition of war crimes as defined by Protocol 1 and various European nationals.

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abb1 08.07.06 at 3:34 pm

There’s no racial purity requirement, Dan. Someone from Brooklyn called Adam Shapiro lived in Ramallah among the natives for a half a year without any problem. He’s fine. Others come from Europe and the US with their guns blazing surrounded by soldiers and tanks; kill and intimidate people, destroy villages, olive groves and everything. They will have to go, eventually; they don’t belong. It’s too late now for this kind of stuff, they can’t win. The whole concept is a loser.

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engels 08.07.06 at 4:25 pm

The US does not recognize customary law as binding.

Not true. The US does recognise customary international law and all serious commentators in the US know this. It has to, as a signatory to the UN charter, which states (in Article 92)

The Court, whose function is to decide in accordance with international law such disputes as are submitted to it, shall apply… international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law

One must conquer a nation to hold it accountable to a treaty it has not signed.

It’s a bit hard to know exactly what you mean by “hold accountable”. If you are talking about the practicalities of punishment then your claim is rather obvious, it’s not relevant to our discussion and it begs the obvious reply that the fact that it might be impossible to bring someone to justice does not make him any less of a criminal.

If this is a legal claim, that states can not be bound by treaties to which they are not parties, then it is just wrong. Look up jus cogens in your favourite textbook.

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james 08.07.06 at 4:55 pm

UN Charter Article 92: “The International Court of Justice shall be the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It shall function in accordance with the annexed Statute, which is based upon the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice and forms an integral part of the present Charter. “

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/un/unchart.htm#art92

A text search of 111 Articles does not turn up ‘international custom’. What are you sourcing from?

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james 08.07.06 at 5:08 pm

engels: Thank you for directing me to look up jus cogens. The application of ‘Higher Law’ raises three problems. 1) Who decides what constitutes higher law. 2) The US Constitution does not recognize any law or treaty as a higher law. 3) Enforcement.

My perspective, much of international law seems to be various European States deciding laws, then calling those laws international due to the mutli-nation state makup of the EU. From a US constitutional perspective, only laws passed by Congress and signed by the President of the United States or treaties signed by the President and ratified by the Senate may be applied as laws in the United States. Even then, those laws can not violate existing rights expressly stated in the Constitution except via Constitutional amendment. The short version to this is the United States makes its own laws and currently has the power to keep other from making laws for it.

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garyquitec. 08.07.06 at 5:30 pm

The exchange between ABB1 and Dan Simon is interesting — it points up at once some of the more prevalent, racist strains of anti-Zionism, on one hand, and on the other the enduring popularity among Anglophone and, particularly, American Jews of 19th century European Reform Judaism’s desperate attempt to assimilate by annihiliating the idea that there ever existed a Jewish people, as that term is commonly understood under international law.

ABB1 protests mightily that she (arbitrarily gendering) applies no racial purity criterion but, of course, her fixation on Ashkenazi Jews can be nothing but. Why else would Ashkenazi Jews be a uniquely foreign implantation into Israel, as ABB1 appears to contend — foreigners, welcome when they behave nicely — except by positing some primary racial difference between Europe and the Middle East? Let us buy in, for a moment, to ABB1’s racist screed that Jews have no history and have never existed as a people, only as components of ethnically homogeneous societies or, at least, self-contained societies whose peoples could surely not have migrated elsewhere, in various places. Even in that fantasy-land, why would a Jewish family migrating from Yemen or Morocco or Iraq or the Netherlands or anywhere outside the usual domain of Ashkenazi Jewry have any more claim on Israeli territory, than would an Ashkenazi Jew? Neither, in ABB1’s version, is from that place; has any history in that place; belongs to any identifiable people which can be linked to that place. Unless, of course, it all comes down to some primary racial divide between Europeans and, uh, “Arabs”, each being an ethnic term to describe all of the people living in various regions. Until recently, of course.

Then there is Dan Simon, who prefers to evacuate the whole discussion, and suggest only that, a people having been granted the right to self-determination under international law, whether or not that people exists, or whether or not that right was properly taken up, cannot matter, since demographic facts on the ground trump any prior invocation of law. That makes little sense, but does neatly sidestep an entire domain on which said legal system is based.

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engels 08.07.06 at 5:34 pm

A text search of 111 Articles does not turn up ‘international custom’. What are you sourcing from?

Sorry: you’re quite right and I was wrong to say that article 92 “states” that. Article 92 incorporates the statute of the International Court of Justice into the UN charter.

http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/chapt14.htm

Article 38(1)b of the ICJ statute lists international custom as a source of law.

http://www.icj-cij.org/icjwww/ibasicdocuments/ibasictext/ibasicstatute.htm#CHAPTER_II

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garyquitec. 08.07.06 at 5:36 pm

James, with respect, you’re barking up the wrong tree. (Just realised: tree, timber … groans. Apologies.) International law, including customary international law, and among it jus cogens, is certainly accepted by the U.S. Whether or not certain treaties which, for instance, the U.S. has signed but not ratified, are nonethless binding in the U.S., is frequently a matter of dispute. Whether or not certain treaties which the U.S. has neither signed nor ratified have been elevated to customary international law by reason of their wide acceptance by the community of states, etc., is similarly a matter of dispute. Whether or not these categories are operative under the USG’s interpretation of public internation law is, to my knowledge, not.

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Dan Simon 08.07.06 at 5:43 pm

There’s no racial purity requirement, Dan.

Riiiight–and you’ve never supported dictators, either…

The great thing about the Internet is that it never forgets. That makes spectacularly self-condemning statements hard to deny.

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james 08.07.06 at 8:50 pm

Engel: “although the USA withdrew from compulsory jurisdiction in 1986, meaning it accepts the court’s jurisdiction on only a case-to-case basis.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Court_of_Justice

“For example, in Nicaragua v. United States the United States of America had previously accepted the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction upon its creation in 1946 but withdrew its acceptance following the Court’s judgment in 1984 that called on the United States to “cease and to refrain” from the “unlawful use of force” against the government of Nicaragua. In a split decision, the majority of the Court ruled the United States was “in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to use force against another state” and ordered the US pay reparations (see note 2), although it never did.”

I maintian the US does not recognize customary international law.

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engels 08.07.06 at 9:29 pm

I maintian the US does not recognize customary international law.

Again, I’m sorry but this point is not really debatable: the ICJ statute is authoratitive and it lists “international custom” as a source of law. You can find this in any textbook.

I think that the situation with Nicaragua v. United States is that the court ruled against the US, but the US contests the decision and has prevented the ICJ from enforcing it. The US has withdrawn its acceptance of the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction, meaning that it accepts the court’s jurisdiction over only those disputes which it submits to the ICJ, but it is still a party to the ICJ statute (as it is a party to the UN charter).

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engels 08.07.06 at 10:09 pm

On your other points, I should say that international customary law does not generally encroach on national sovereignty. This is because states are thought to assent to it, as they play a role in developing the customs on which it is based, and because states are free to alter obligations which derive from it by treaty.

The exception to this is jus cogens, which permits no derogation, and so clearly circumscribes state sovereignty. However, these laws, which forbid waging aggressive war, crimes against humanity, engaging in slavery, genocide, etc, set the absolute minimum standards of moral behaviour.

So there is a real tension between international law and national sovereignty. Also, you are right to point out that enforcement is a real problem. However, these are very large issues and I think they are quite separate from the topic of this thread.

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luc 08.08.06 at 6:43 am

As for the original topic, and specifically hiding behind civilians, a Haaretz journalist reported this:

“The General Staff’s logistics division recently ordered a delivery of protective measures for setting up shelters from rockets in IDF camps and on gathering sites close to the border.

The first delivery from overseas is expected soon. Meanwhile, the IDF is making an effort to transfer some of the soldiers who are deployed along the border to protected public institutions in communities.”

Would this be sloppy reporting, or is the IDF resorting to the same sheltering tactic of Hezbollah? Deploying soldiers in public institutions?

My view is still that most people wildly exaggerate the Hezbollah activities as an excuse for the civilian casualties. Given that the same things are apparently done by the IDF, that would confirm that viewpoint.

The IDF has to deploy more than 10000 soldiers in the north. And as clearly marked army camps aren’t available, so they deploy using the civilian infrastructure. Just as Hezbollah.

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zdenek 08.08.06 at 10:08 am

In trying to defend Hezbollah tactics from the criticism that it criminally hides behind civilians , HRW says (in the summary ) first that it has not found any instances of this because it has not found ‘deliberate’ use of civilians as shields by Hezbollah but it then goes on to say/concede that there are instances where Hezbollah stored rocket launchers etc. inside civilian areas and so on.
But this concedes the case to Israel because they have been emphasising the use of weaponry inside civilian / residential ares and use ‘human shield’ to capture that and no more. So I dont get the HRW position on the human shields ( I mean in what sense is this not deliberate use of civilians as human shields ? ). Again we see this creepy urge to get Hezbollah off the hook no matter what, why ?

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Chris Bertram 08.08.06 at 10:46 am

Again we see this creepy urge to get Hezbollah off the hook no matter what, why ?

Yes zdenek, that’s no doubt why the HRW site contains explicit and lengthy criticisms of Hezbollah tactics of firing rockets at civilians. Hardly what they’d do if they possessed of an “urge” to “get Hezbollah off the hook” ” _no matter what_ “. Perhaps you ought to subject your own “urges” to some critical examination.

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james 08.08.06 at 10:53 am

Engels: The use of a series of rejected treaties in our air chair determination of guilt seems wrong on a fundimental level. This is the reason I spent the time necessary to point out that customary international law is not necessarly the bedrock foundation you make it out to be. In this discussion it seems necesary to distinguish the differnce between the actors laws and the outside laws. The attempt to include Protocol 1 as a default law of one of the actors due to customary international law seems to cloud the issue.

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Daniel 08.08.06 at 10:57 am

The use of a series of rejected treaties in our air chair determination of guilt seems wrong on a fundimental level

Hard to see how the ICTY could have got off the ground any other way.

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David Sucher 08.08.06 at 11:15 am

‘Perhaps you ought to subject your own “urges” to some critical examination.’

Excellent advice for all of us, eh Chris?

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engels 08.08.06 at 11:21 am

This is the reason I spent the time necessary to point out that customary international law is not necessarly the bedrock foundation you make it out to be.

Just to make it clear: you were wrong about all that and I have already explained why. As far as I can see you are not now offering any arguments anymore but just trying to proclaim victory in their absence. This is not very interesting.

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zdenek 08.08.06 at 11:51 am

Christ chris I am not the only one who is noticing bias in HRW politicised approach . Consider that out of the 33 reports dealing with Israel HRW issued over past few years , 25 involved a condemnation of it. Or the rush to judgement over Jenin or the recent claim that the tragedy in Quana was a ‘war crime'( maybe it was but the point is HRW made the accusation before any investigation took place ).
So there does seem to be a pattern of making ones mind up independently of the facts on the ground ( not saying that they are totally ignored but creationists also do ‘research’ and often appeal to facts , I see no difference here. )
If this is the case the criticism HRW is making of Hezbollah is not made in good faith but is just a part of a gambit to cover ones arse I think.

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s.e. 08.08.06 at 11:58 am

Can we end any and all discussion of rational actor theory now?.

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Joshua W. Burton 08.08.06 at 1:02 pm

Hard to see how the ICTY could have got off the ground any other way.

We managed to try Col. Noriega without mentioning jus cogens or calling in Avocats Sans Frontières. The Israelis tried Eichmann, ditto. It’s a convenient fact that Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence is ponderously uninterested in how the accused arrived in the jurisdiction where he is charged.

Forced to choose between occasional irregular kidnapping subject to the normal checks of democratically enacted criminal law in the destination court, or occasional irregular incursions of undemocratically enacted international “law” into countries that have signed no treaty to grant it license, most Americans (and certainly I) see the former as by far the lesser of usurpations.

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Chris Bertram 08.08.06 at 1:26 pm

Forced to choose between occasional irregular kidnapping subject to the normal checks of democratically enacted criminal law in the destination court

Mordechai Vanunu thanks you for your concern. And it isn’t just kidnapping either, is it? So the family of Ahmed Bouchiki no doubt shares your enthusiasm for the “occasional irregular” operation.

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engels 08.08.06 at 1:39 pm

Well, Joshua, I’ll be interested to see how your campaign to have the Nuremberg convictions quashed goes. And I’m sure you’re right that the majority of not-at-all-loopy Americans see the prohibitions on US officials committing genocide and trafficking in slaves as a grave usurpation of Congress’s powers.

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Seth Edenbaum 08.08.06 at 2:27 pm

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Doctor Slack 08.08.06 at 2:28 pm

The ever-entertaining Zdenek: Consider that out of the 33 reports dealing with Israel HRW issued over past few years , 25 involved a condemnation of it.

Yeah, it’s almost as though Israel has serious human rights issues and HRW is a human rights watchdog organization. What outrageous “bias”!

I notice they’re also “biased” against countries like Lebanon, because they kept on criticizing Lebanon’s actions as though that country was a persistent human rights violator. Oh, the humanity! Will the “bias” of these rights-obsessed folk never end?!

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Joshua W. Burton 08.08.06 at 2:52 pm

Mordechai Vanunu thanks you for your concern. And it isn’t just kidnapping either, is it? So the family of Ahmed Bouchiki no doubt shares your enthusiasm for the “occasional irregular” operation.

Lesser of usurpations, I said. Kidnapping and manslaughter are mere crimes, warlike only if committed under color of law, whereas the peremptory norm doctrine is a license for the ICC to infringe upon national sovereignty in an openly warlike manner. Uniformed British agents marching Gen. Almog off that El Al plane at Heathrow would have been a far graver matter between allies than British suicide bombers blowing up a bar in Tel Aviv, for example.

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Hogan 08.08.06 at 3:01 pm

When did Israel become Anglo-Saxon?

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abb1 08.08.06 at 3:12 pm

Just outta curiosity: what do the other 8 HRW reports say about Israel? Do they write about the weather there or something?

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Joshua W. Burton 08.08.06 at 3:45 pm

When did Israel become Anglo-Saxon?

11 December 1917.

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abb1 08.08.06 at 6:13 pm

Hey, it’s OK now. Because according to exile.ru,

Hezbollah Appologizes

BEIRUT (element) — Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah yesterday announced that he was “sorry” after admitting that his militia was “not fighting fair.”

“I feel really, really bad and embarassed,” Nasrallah said in a statement on Hezbollah television. “I mean, why can’t we just fight fair against the Israelis? How can we face the girls during recess if we refuse to fight the Israeli forces face-to-face, and instead continue to fight in this sneaky way.”

He called for a broad change in tactics in the war against Israel, after conceding that “the rules” clearly showed that bombing from an air force is “totally fair,” while firing Katyusha rockets is “not fair.”

“From now on, when the Israeli tanks and jets come at us, we’ll make sure we’re not anywhere near women or children, because it’s not fair. Give the jets their best shot, then we’ll take our best shot,” said Nasrallah. “If it means our complete destruction, well, then that’s fair.”

He also called on Iraqi insurgents to “fight fair.” “No more IEDs, no more suicide bombs,” he said. “From now on, fight the Americans in formation on an open battlefield. After all, it’s only fair.”

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engels 08.09.06 at 2:59 am

Well, Joshua, I’ve no doubt that arresting Israeli war criminals while they are in Britain would probably piss off the Israeli ambassador. But that doesn’t bear on the question of what justice requires.

Anyway this issue, universal jurisdiction, and the issue of peremptory norms does not affect HRW’s argument, because many of Israel’s crimes are recognised as such by the original Geneva Conventions, which it has ratified, and by parts of Protocol 1 by which it is bound as customary international law.

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Chris Bertram 08.09.06 at 3:20 am

Kidnapping and manslaughter are mere crimes, warlike only if committed under color of law, whereas the peremptory norm doctrine is a license for the ICC to infringe upon national sovereignty in an openly warlike manner.

Isn’t this a really odd thing to say, since the official Israeli story is that kidnapping and manslaughter (of Israeli soldiers) gives them a license to infringe upon Lebanese national sovereignty in an openly warlike manner. Of course, if all they’re doing is crimefighting, then the threshold of protection afforded the innocent is set way higher.

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Joshua W. Burton 08.09.06 at 1:11 pm

Isn’t this a really odd thing to say, since the official Israeli story is that kidnapping and manslaughter (of Israeli soldiers) gives them a license to infringe upon Lebanese national sovereignty in an openly warlike manner. Of course, if all they’re doing is crimefighting, then the threshold of protection afforded the innocent is set way higher.

Delaying (for over 20 years!) compensation to Bouchiki’s relatives was a very unfriendly state act by Israel, and Norway might well have treated it as an act of war, if she had perceived a sufficient national interest in deterring future Israeli incursions militarily. With most of the Mossad cell in custody and reasonable private assurances that this sad accident wasn’t about to recur, Norway elected to treat it as a mere crime instead.

If Lebanon had the power to offer comparable assurances against Hizb’allah recidivism, a tense but peaceful settlement between state actors might have been reached in the Wasserman/Regev matter, with or without extradition of the perpetrators. Lacking such power to participate in the give and take of national comity, they leave Israel only the military option to protect its existential sovereign interests.

In short, a crime across borders can be a warlike act, but (real, sovereign) states usually have a compelling common interest in downgrading it. A lot of sovereignty is state-actor trade unionism: it’s a good litmus test for serious statehood that states treat frank piracy and warlordism as a jus gentium offense.

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abb1 08.09.06 at 4:08 pm

Whoa, an assassination is an act of war? Forget Israel, wasn’t assassination pretty much the basis for official US foreign policy before Carter and again since Bush The Second?

If murdering a waitor by foreign agents was a reason to start a war, we would’ve been all dead by now.

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