Middle East Warcrimes?

Warcrimes, that is how some describe Israeli military actions in Lebanon. Israel has the right to defend herself, but no nation is allowed to engage in warcrimes.

Interesting. OK, just how should Israel defend herself? Should the Israeli military march into Lebanon with popguns or something?

I wish to explore recent history a little bit and how it impacts the debate internal to Israel. I will acknowledge that within Israel there exists some that I would describe as right wing extremists. It is not only within Hamas and Hezbollah where there are extremists, however sometimes the arguments put forth by the Israeli right do have some merit.

International pressure was put on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon and Israel did so. Israel's withdrawal was completed in May 2000. Did peace break out?

Let us examine one example of the arguments put forth by the Israeli right. (See here) an article by David Bedein that appears at the Israel Insider website. Mr Bedein gives a short history of the conditions on Israel's northern border.
In the four years since the IDF unilaterally redeployed its troops from Lebanon, the following attacks on Israel took place from the north: 34 attacks with mortar shells and anti-tank missiles into northern Israel; 7 shooting attacks with light arms fire into northern Israel; 8 roadside bombs that were planted in northern Israel; 127 times when anti-aircraft missiles were fired into northern Israel; 5 Katyusha rocket attacks into northern Israel; 10 infiltrations into northern Israel; 11 soldiers killed in northern Israel, while three IDF troops were kidnapped and murdered; 50 soldiers were wounded in northern Israel; 14 civilians were killed in northern Israel.

Now note that Mr Bedein is arguing against the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (also frequently referred to as Judea and Samaria within Israel). He points to the aftermath of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon as being an example of what will be the results of any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Please note that Mr Bedein's article is a little dated. It was reprinted from an earlier appearance on Israel Insider in March 2005, apparently in an effort by the Israel Insider publisher to say "See, we told you so!" If the article were written today, I would imagine the author would also point to what has been happening after the Gaza withdrawal as being another example of what Israel can expect after any withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.

Some within the international community loudly proclaim that Israel has been going too far in Lebanon and Gaza. They seem to be stating, "Israel has the right to defend herself, just not quite so vigorously, please." These same voices will also then expect Israel to withdraw from the West Bank (hopefully after negotiations) because "Justice demands it."

Well I too hope for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. I too would prefer that this withdrawal be after a negotiated settlement if this negotiated settlement includes the elected representatives of the Palestinian side (Hamas) giving up on their formal, official policy of driving all Jews into the sea.

However I am wondering if Ehud Olmert will now be able to pull such an outcome off. Will he be able to muster the internal support from the Israeli public necessary to do so? Without majority public support he will be prevented from doing so. Right now, the Israeli right is being empowered in their arguments. They can appeal to Israeli moderates (the center) with the argument that what is going on today in Lebanon and Gaza is what tomorrow holds for Israel from the West Bank after any Israeli withdrawal. "See how the international community condemns us as we try to defend ourselves today from rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon. After our withdrawal from Judea and Samaria ALL of Israel will be within range of rocket attacks and just as we are condemned for our actions in Lebanon and Gaza, so will we be condemned if we take action against rocket attacks and suicide bombings coming from Judea and Samaria."

Now if I were an Israeli moderate enduring daily rocket barrages, I would find such an argument appealing. Perhaps I could be convinced that international support will be there if Israel has to defend herself if rockets are launched from the West Bank. But just then how will the international community define the "right to defend herself"? Well the definition of that right is today being written in Lebanon and Gaza. I seek to assure the moderate, wavering center within Israel that if she goes through with withdrawing from Judea and Samaria, that the "right of self defense" will be robust if the need for this right should arise.

I support a just settlement of the Middle East conflict. However justice is a two way street and it is not wrong for the Israeli side to demand their fair share of it.


Blogger Michael said...

Interesting. OK, just how should Israel defend herself? Should the Israeli military march into Lebanon with popguns or something?

A few suggestions:
- to not use cluster bombs in densely populated urban areas
- to not systematically destroy vital civilian infrastructure like water processing, power generation, airports, bridges, etc.
- to not tell the civilian population to leave the area, and then indiscriminately bomb vehicles leaving the area.

Furthermore, the following report which has received little attention in the Western media changes the chronology and provocation of the current war in Lebanon somewhat: http://world.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/33264

Michael Tam

7/29/2006 02:30:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

The article you link to reports on nothing earth shattering.

Some private Israeli citizens deemed themselves worthy to negotiate with Palestinians for all Israelis. I note the article reports: "The meeting was to announce a joint Israeli-Palestinian call for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit who had been abducted by Hamas in Gaza, along with proposals for the beginning of the release of all Palestinian prisoners."

Ahem, let me reiterate "release of all Palestinian prisoners." Seems this "active dialogue" accomplished nothing but privately agreeing to the public demands of Hamas that had been publicly rejected by the Israeli government.

Perhaps some criticism of Israeli methods are warranted. For example I at least somewhat agree with your suggestions about the use of cluster bombs and about bombing vehicles leaving the area after encouraging the population to flee. (I disagree with your suggestion about not targetting infrastructure.)

However there is a difference between criticism of some specific actions and universal condemnation of everything Israel does.

7/29/2006 06:44:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

You missed the most important part of that article:

Israel simultaneously began conducting covert incursions on to Lebanese territory, provoking Hizbollah’s capture of two IDF soldiers. Credible sources confirm that the soldiers were not abducted on Israeli territory, but inside Lebanon. Like the scuppered peace negotiations, Western officials have ignored this, and misinformed the media. However, some reports corroborate the sources. Israeli officials, for instance, informed Forbes (12.7.06) that “Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers during clashes Wednesday across the border in southern Lebanon, prompting a swift reaction from Israel.”

That is, the current conflict was started by an Israeli incursion into Southern Lebanon.

Michael Tam

7/30/2006 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

There have been conflicting reports as to exactly where the soldiers where captured.

Various reports have stated they were in Israel, in Lebanon, in the disputed Sheba Farms area etc etc. From these conflicting reports I have been unable to reach a satisfactory personal conclusion as to where the captures occured. However I will state that the article that you link to was not the first time I became aware of the claims the capture occured on Lebanese soil.

Personally I do not think any Israeli incursion onto Lebanese soil would have been unforgiveable considering how often Israeli borders were also violated by Hezbollah.

7/30/2006 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Yes, but it rather changes the chronology of the war.

The (apparent) justification for Israeli air strikes on South Lebanon was in response to a Hezbollah incursion into Israeli territory, the killing of several soldiers and the capture of two. That led to the war (with retaliatory Hezbollah rocket attacks).

This already weak justification grows downright dismal if the Israeli soldiers were killed in an Israeli incursion into Lebanon and the two soldiers were in fact captured in Lebanon.

Michael Tam

8/01/2006 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Little David said...

So, in the face of conflicting reports, you automatically choose to trust the reports where Israeli soldiers where in Lebanese territory?

I can not say this with certainty, but I believe that one explanation for the differing reports would be that it did happen in the Sheba Farms area. If this were to be the case, both sides would believe that the abductions happened on their side of the border. If it did happen in Sheba Farms, it would have occured on the Israeli side of the United Nations sanctioned Blue Line.

8/15/2006 07:35:00 PM  

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