Tuesday, August 01, 2006

posted by Ofer

On War Crimes

Several Arab countries, and a few of their European supporters, have accused Israel of committing war crimes during this conflict, and have promised to charge Israel in the international court in Hague. I am doubtful that this will happen, but I'd like to address the charges anyway.

An Israeli unmanned scout plane circling the skies of south Lebanon spots a Hizballah rocket launcher fixed on the back of a pickup truck. In a matter of seconds, rocket after rocket are fired at Israeli cities. An F-15 fighter jet is scrambled to the site, but by the time it gets there, the launcher is already out of site, in the garage of a civilian home. The scout plane saw precisely which building the rocket launcher backed-up into. Is this the home of the men who fired the rockets or is this someone else's home ? Is there anyone in the house besides the men who fired the rockets ? Are there children in the house ? If we hold our fire, these men will just return to fire more and more rockets. If we go ahead and attack the house, we may end up doing more damage than we intended. Meanwhile, the rockets that were fired begin to fall on Israeli cities. Israeli civilians are injured and killed.

Holding our fire every time is clearly not the right choice. Hizballah's men don't wait around with a bulls-eye painted on their forehead, they fire and run into civilian homes for cover. That's their tactic. If the IDF were to play it safe every single time, not a single Hizballah soldier would be hit, and a shower of rockets would continue to fall on Israel's cities. We certainly have the right to target those who attack us.

Shooting back every time is also the wrong answer. If the scout plane spots civilians in the house, we should hold our fire. If the building is a hospital, we should hold our fire. If there are known concentrations of civilians in the vicinity of the house, we should hold our fire. The only way to go about this difficult decision is on a per-case basis. If we do decide to shoot, we can only pray that the occupants of this house have already fled to the north.

The international law which defines war crimes is very ambiguous and open to interpretation. Just like domestic law, the international law only specifies a set of ground rules, but does not explicitly deal with the infinite complexity of real life situations. Applying the law to the unique circumstances of each individual case is the job of a judge. But who is to judge Israel's actions? A judge from Belgium? from the Netherlands? An outsider to the Middle East, who has no way of understanding the impossible position Israel is in? A European who comes from a country where the public opinion is entirely pro-Arab? It is impossible for Israel to receive a fair trial in an international court. I want my judge to be Lebanese. Any reasonable, honest and fair Lebanese judge will do.

I will look my Lebanese judge in the eye and ask him: If you were in our shoes; If you were entrusted with the security of Israel's cities; If you knew that a million Israelis, packed in their bomb shelters, were looking to you for protection; If you were the one facing a cowardly enemy who uses babies as human shields; If you had to make the decision on whether to shoot or not, can you honestly tell me that you would be able to do your job effectively while inflicting less collateral damage than we have ?

The officers and soldiers of the IDF are faced with the difficult job of balancing the scales. On one hand, effectively fighting Hizballah and protecting Israel from rocket attacks, on the other hand, the innocent Lebanese civilians. I don't think that anyone else could have done a better job. Its a terrible terrible thing that innocent Lebanese children have died, but war crimes - I don't think so.


Blogger Maddy said...


I don't want to start a fight with you over this one BUT, there has been massive indiscriminate bombing of Beirut city and the southern parts of Lebanon by the very well armed Israeli army.

I understand that Israel can't sit back and do nothing at all, no country would do nothing at all. Is it necessary thought to destroy all the infer structure such as power stations? It appears to the outside world that the Israeli army has gone too far and needs to stop now before they do irreparable damage to their reputation. The civilians of Lebanon feel that they are being persecuted for the sins of Hizballah. There have been many analogies in the western newspapers to the second world war and the persecution of the Jews. I didn’t write the articles I’m just letting you know they appear everyday.

I know this is a very personal issue for you and what right do I have to comment from here in my very safe home in Australia. I just wanted to point out that the images we see around the world are not of Hizballah in their rusty trucks with old Russian artillery, it’s of a well trained Israeli army with state of the art weaponry bombing the life out of the entire country of Lebanon.

OK big breath, bring it on ….. wink.

1:36 AM  
Blogger ran said...

The problem is with the circumstances that lead to war crimes or war crime accusations that force you and Israel to defened against. What are we doing in lebanon ? I just read news the IDF is landing forces in Baalbeq. This war is wrong and stupid. Israel made a big mistake no matter what the outcome will be (because I think we could have achieved the same results and even better in peaceful ways). Israel destroyed 2000 hizbullah rocekts, the only problem being that 1500 of them were destroyed landing on houses all over the galilee...

1:59 AM  
Blogger Ofer said...

Dear Maddy,

Please read my very first post on this blog to see my view on the distruction of Lebanese infrastructure:

Nevertheless, I still think its much worse to kill one Lebanese child than it is to destroy all of the bridges and runways in Lebanon.

"The civilians of Lebanon feel that they are being persecuted for the sins of Hizballah". They are. Please read:


8:31 AM  
Blogger Ofer said...

... and another thing

Regarding the comparison with the Jewish holocaust during WW2:

1. There is no racist ideology behind Israel's actions.
2. There is no Israeli desire to kill Lebanese civilians.
3. Israel's current actions are not driven by empirialistic desires, we just want to be left alone.
4. In 1933, Germany was not facing any real existential threat. In 2006, Israel is (I'm not referring specifically to Hizballah, which are not an existential threat, but rather to the entire Arab/Muslim world)
5. A factor of 10,000 in the number of civilians killed.

If your daily newspaper makes these comparisons, its not worth the paper its printed on.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Maddy said...

Dear Ofer (I will follow your lead)

I am not accusing, and I am sorry if it sounds like I am. I just think that the never ending bombing of the city of Beirut appears indiscriminate.

I have read all of your blog, and I value your comments on the war, that's why I come back every day. And I will be back tomorrow.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Maddy said...

Hey don't shoot the messenger.

"I didn’t write the articles I’m just letting you know they appear everyday"

9:07 AM  
Blogger Elad said...

Ran, I think Ofer would agree that the point was made and Israel can now withdraw from Lebanon and start negotiations. Even now is a one week too late.
But he makes a point on war crimes accusations, to which i completely agree. Another irony in this situation: the Hezbollah organization is clearly committing war crimes by aiming directly towards civilians. Their leaders are not in hiding, but rather accessible political figures. Why is there no voice to bring them to trial on war crimes charges. Is it too much to ask, even from the Lebanese themselves ?

12:17 PM  
Blogger Ofer said...

Don't you know that Arab leaders are immune ? The double standard of the international community continues to amaze me.

1:35 PM  
Blogger the perpetual refugee said...


I do sincerely believe that Hassan Nasrallah & Hizballah's leadership have committed war crimes.

I also do sincerely believe that the Israeli leadership (read leadership, not people, not nation) committed war crimes as well.

It is a mistake to assume that because the Lebanese are angry at the Israelis that they (we) love Hizballah.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Elad said...

Dear refugee,
After reader Ofer's post, it would be nice to hear WHY you still think otherwise.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous ET said...

On War Crimes:

The substantive issue is being missed.

War Crimes are committed by individuals and not governments but when War Crimes as systemic as they were part of the NAZI policy of governance then it defines the character of the people.

What is the character of Jewish people? What is the character of the Israeli people? What is the character of a zionist?

Are they one and the same as proposed?

Is it three facets of the same people?

Or is it three separate characters within the same polity?

A tree is known by its fruit. What are the works of zionists, Israelis, and Jews?

Jews support the existence of Israel but should this support be unqualified or conditional?

Israelis duty is to defend their people; again should this be unqualied or conditional?

Zionists duty should be to the people of Israel- security and viability of the Jewish polity.

Zionists works are self-evident of Crimes Against Humanity in occupied Palestine and this is not the character of the Jewish people nor the character of the Israeli people.

Settlement policy is systemic War Crimes- Principles of Nuremberg, Crimes Against Humanity.

Crime Against Peace- contravention to UNSC 242. War Crimes- contravetnion to IV Geneva, Article 39. Crimes Against Humanity- political persecution to effect dispossesion of Palestinians from their private and public real property through home demolisions (pillage), detentions, torture, extra-judicial murder, and settlements (plunder).

Is this the character of Judaism?

RELIGIOUS ARGUMENT: It is conviently forgotten that Kingdom [Tribe]of Judah killed the false priests and destroyed the false altars of the Kingdom [Tribe]of Israel.

Judea was the Kingdom of Judah and never part of the Kigndom of Israel. Every person, specifically zionists, can read Torah and if you deny Torah then your not Jewish but pretenders.

1. Strategic depth has been lost on the northern frontier when in pre-1981 all anti-Israeli militants were north of the Litani and Hezbollah was composed of 300 men and now Hezbollah [with 30% of Lebanese support] is are right on the northern border.

2. Gaza- has become near 100% militant, when in 1987 Hamas was composed of 300 men.

3. Strategic depth object was to be secured with the neighboring states/peoples at peace with Israel.

4. What the zionist Israel leadership have accomplished is to trade strategic depth for settlements on a gamble that neighboring Arabs would sacrifice the Palestinians for their own peace but in fact has placed those neighboring leaderships of Egypt and Jordan on precipice that their own populations may remove them and Israel would be in unparalleled situation.

1948, the neighboring leadership/ governments and not the neighboring peoples engaged Israel in war.

Present, the neighboring peoples want to wage war vs Israel and the neighboring leadership/ governments desire peace.

Why? Because of the Palestinian people are being persecuted by zionists in Israel.

Israel is in that contextual place like the dog in Aseop's fable that upon seeing a dog with a bigger bone while crossing the bridge decides to attack the dog and take its bone so it opens it mouth to growl and drops it's own bone into the river below...

Jewish population is static and hass decreased 2% in Israel proper; so that reflective bone is the Palestinian West Bank and the river is the river Styx with Charon as the ferry pilot.

Only fools destroy their own house...

of Judaism- substituting it for the false doctrine of zionism;

of International Law- destroying the foundation of soveriegnty which is UNGA 181;

of State of Israel- Never in its history, has it been in such jeopardy, this time by its own folly.

Innterantional Law does not expire: War Crimes Tribunals to hold Israelis may be established between now and eternity with only one qualifier- that the suspects are alive to hold them accountable.

10:07 PM  

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