This is the typical question lobbed by the pro-Israel crowd. What we are saying is that Israel doesn’t have a right to defend herself. This is supposedly an aspect of the New Anti-Semitism, in that everyone has a right to fight back but Jews. Jews have to just sit there and let people kill them, like in WW2. Maybe someone is saying that, but it sure isn’t me. Let’s get things straight here. Everyone has a right to self-defense in wartime (Article 51 of the UN Charter), and possibly in peacetime. If you haven’t shot at cops, but cops are shooting at you (assuming you are not pointing a weapon at them) I assume you have a right to shoot back at cops. This is basically what Leonard Peltier is accused of doing, although the Indian who killed the FBI agent is not Leonard but another guy. During the AIM vs. BIA wars of the early 1970’s, some FBI agents pulled into the Pine Ridge Reservation Sioux reservation in South Dakota, got out of their cars, and started shooting at the Indians up on the ridge. The Indians took cover, grabbed some guns, and started shooting back. Peltier was shooting, but he wasn’t the one who shot the agent, some other Indian was. This is exactly what I think happened. So let’s get clear on this. Everyone has a right to shoot back. Including Nazis. Including Japs in WW2. We were shooting at them, so they had a right to shoot back. They had a right to attack us even when we were not shooting at them, since we were hostile forces at war with them. So of course Israel has a right to fight back, and even to attack Palestinian forces in Gaza who were shooting rockets at Israel. What about proportionality? Israel killing 1,400 Palestinians while only 13 Israelis got killed is said to be the war crime of lack of proportionality. Actually, this is a difficult case to make. Disproportionality can be a war crime, but even this is uncertain. There are laws against collective punishment, but it’s uncertain if disproportionality is included. There is stuff about disproportionality in the Draft Articles in State Responsibility, recently adopted by the International Law Commission (see December 29, 2008 1:02 PM comment), but that’s not international law yet. What that means (see December 28, 2008 1:18 PM comment) is that if you have a town where there is one building in the town with some fighters in it shooting at you, you don’t have a right to blow up or level the whole town to get at the one building. You can blow up the building, sure. So it’s hard to argue that Israel committed the war crime of disproportionate response in this case. However, the UN is complaining that what Israel did is to lock the civilians into Gaza, prevent them from fleeing, and then attack. I’m not sure on international law, but I’m pretty sure you have to give civilians the right to flee the fighting? Egypt and the US are also at fault here, since the US, Egypt and Israel all control the Rafah checkpoint, and terrified Gazans were not allowed to flee to Egyptian safety in this latest war, held back to gun-wielding troops. I will point out that the US did much the same in Fallujah. Right before they invaded, scores or hundreds of civilians, mostly unarmed young men in civilian clothes, tried to flee the city, only to be turned back at gunpoint by US troops. How cruel can you get? In the Gaza case, even worse from my point of view is that they dropped leaflets on Gaza telling civilians to leave the area as it was about to be attacked, then the Israelis went ahead and attacked them anyway after they fled to UN shelters and whatnot. I guess that is some kind of a super-cruel Israeli joke. “Flee! Flee! Civilians get out! We are going to attack the area!” Then later, “Haha! Just kidding! You fell for it. Suckers! Here’s a bomb on your head!” The punch line is there’s no escape. It’s like throwing a Surprise Birthday Party for a guy at work, and then the boss barges in and says, “Happy birthday! You’re fired!” And the whole room erupts in gales of laughter as birthday boy shrivels up. Downright hilarious.
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