Cutting through the bullshit.

Thursday 20 July 2006

War crimes

This morning, I received this email from Jewish Voice for Peace:

Once again, the House of Representatives is sticking its unbalanced hand into Middle East affairs and threatening to make matters even worse.

The House is currently considering a bill that puts all blame for the current violence between Israel and Hizbullah on one side. There is no doubt that Hizbullah initiated this round of the conflict with a blatantly illegal act. Nor can it be doubted, as Human Rights Watch points out here (, that their attacks on Israeli cities are also criminal. At this writing, 12 Israeli civilians have been killed.

But Israel's response has been a massive attack on Lebanese civilians, with over 300 killed already. Israel's attack has been overwhelming and disproportionate, and Israel's refusal to negotiate leaves no other course but one which will lead to the deaths of more Lebanese and Israeli civilians. The House bill makes no mention of any of this, other than to justify it.

Click here to write your representative and tell her or him that you expect the United States to take a balanced approach. Tell them that it is in the best interests of Americans, Israelis, Lebanese and Palestinians for Israel to accept a cease-fire and begin immediate negotiations to resolve the issues, including prisoners on all sides and other grievances, as well as, finally, an end to Israel's 39-year old occupation of Palestinian lands.

JVP and HRW may not be in any doubt about who ‘initiated this round of the conflict’, but that is just an artifact of how they have decided to divide up ‘rounds of the conflict’.

Both organizations would, I am sure, evenhandedly condemn the Israeli government’s long history of taking hostages, or whatever the word is for civilians captured and held against their will without benefit of ‘due process’. But obviously, they can’t condemn Israel’s actions and condone Hisb’allah’s. It is up to ‘the international community’ resolve the issue in accordance with ‘international law’.

What they probably understand in their heart of hearts but can’t bring themselves to admit openly is that the international law they are relying on has no substance. The UN can only take action on a Security Council resolution and the US will veto anything it doesn’t like. Even without a veto, it would still require some enforcement mechanism. And without US cooperation, no enforcement is possible. Everyone remembers and cites UNSC resolution 242, for example, requiring Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967, but has there ever been any action to implement it?

The sad fact is that, for all practical purposes, what the US does and condones is the law. And regardless of what the Universal Declaration and the International Covenants may say, what displeases the US is, if not exactly ‘illegal’, at least punishable, and punished severely.

With no prospect of Israel releasing Lebanese hostages either voluntarily or under duress from the ‘international community’, taking Israeli soldiers hostage with a view to exchange seems a reasonable thing to do.

Of course the response of Israel and the international community was entirely predictable, which raises questions about Hizb’allah’s motives. But that is beside the point. And ultimately, so is the question of ‘who started it’.

The real question is: Which side are you on? And anyone avering that they take the side of international law can only mean that it’s ok with them for the imperialists to do their worst with impunity.

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