Monday, March 30, 2009

On Blood Libels, the Media Feeding Frenzy on Alleged "War Crimes," & Legal Opinions

The criticism leveled against the IDF raises a broader issue: to what standard should the armed forces of states be held when they are in conflict with nonstate actors operating from within a civilian population. Certainly, these standards should be high, but they cannot be so high as to prevent states from acting in legitimate self-defense.
Naturally, the usual suspects in the human rights community, are among the quickest to pass judgement. Sadly, many Jews in the blogosphere and elsewhere, are right there with them, looking under every rock for Israeli malfeasance. Anything short of perfection is unacceptable, when the Jewish state is involved. Would that the world would hold Hamas to 1/100 the standard by which it condemns Israel.
david brumer

Soldiers Speak Out
Israeli soldiers have launched a website to share their personal experiences of serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Their testimonies contrast sharply with recent media reports of alleged IDF misconduct, which an IDF investigation has concluded were based on hearsay. Calling themselves “Soldiers Speak Out,” the group provides video testimony ( highlighting their personal accounts of the IDF’s moral code. StandWithUs International created the website in response to IDF members in its student programs who felt they had to speak out. This independent initiative is not coordinated with either the IDF or the Israeli Government.

“We created this website because a few isolated allegations from ‘anti-war’ Israeli soldiers are being used to defame the IDF. Yet the IDF has over 700,000 citizen soldiers and reservists who try to live up to the IDF’s high ethical standards. The IDF impartially judges all alleged violations, and punishes offenders,” explained Roz Rothstein, International Director of StandWithUs.
The soldiers share experiences rarely told by the international media. Nina, a 25 year-old IDF medic who served in Gaza, recounts how she and other IDF soldiers treated wounded Palestinian men, women and children and arranged for them to be flown to Israeli hospitals for medical care. She explains that IDF medics are taught not to see nationality, but rather to treat the wounded with the severest injuries first, even if they are terrorists. Amir, a military reserve paramedic in the Givati unit in Gaza, confirms Nina’s account. “I was present when injured Palestinians were flown out by an IDF chopper to Israeli hospitals. Imagine the cost of that helicopter, but we believe that human life is of the highest value – their identity doesn’t matter.” Amir’s video relates how he helped a pregnant Palestinian woman in labor while he was searching for terrorists in Gaza.

The soldiers also describe the challenges of fighting terrorists who use inhumane tactics. Inon, a 25 year-old lieutenant in the Golani brigade, recalls that during the 2006 Lebanon war, he and his unit spotted an elderly woman shouting in pain. As they tried to help, they realized that Hezbollah had wired her with a suicide bomb belt and was using her as a human trap for the Israeli soldiers. "This is what we are up against."

“We had no shortage of volunteers,” said StandWithUs Israel Director Michael Dickson, “Many feel that the media has been skewed. Many soldiers feel a deep sense of injustice, including those who risked their own lives in Gaza to protect Palestinian civilians. These young soldiers are deeply moral and recognize that their service is vital to a country like Israel, which is constantly endangered by terrorists and hostile neighbors. “All the soldiers we met illustrate the IDF’s moral code with first-hand experiences. The media may not always report on it, but by putting the soldiers’ stories on the Internet, they can speak to people directly. I anticipate that there will be many more soldiers speaking out,” said Dickson.
Click here for the Soldiers Speak Out website
Click here for Jerusalem Post coverage of "Soldiers Speak Out"
Click here for a TV interview on "Soldiers Speak Out" or see it here at YouTube

Examining the Conduct of IDF Operations in Gaza - Jeffrey White

Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Charges against Israel's conduct during the war in Gaza give the impression of an unrestrained campaign against an undefended population. Analysis of the conduct of operations, however, paints a different picture. Ground operations were narrowly focused in the north; central and southern Gaza saw no significant - if any - ground combat. Even where ground forces were employed, fighting was not sustained, as reflected in the very low Israeli combat causalities. No attempt was made to penetrate with ground forces deeply into populated areas.
The IDF took active measures to reduce civilian casualties, including the extensive use of leaflets and phone messages warning Palestinians to leave the area or to avoid potential targets. Civilian warnings also included Israeli Air Force "knocking" actions - shots fired to alert building inhabitants of an imminent attack.
IDF measures to protect its soldiers undoubtedly translated into damage to civilian property - tactics that included breaking through walls of structures to avoid exposure to fire. These measures were taken in response to Hamas' preparation of the battlefield with mines and explosive devices, as well as to Hamas' employment of snipers and antitank weapons. In effect, Hamas had already prepared the civilian environment for military purposes. The Gaza operation was not conducted with the aim of killing civilians and damaging their property, although Palestinian civilians were killed and property destroyed as a consequence of military operations.
The criticism leveled against the IDF raises a broader issue: to what standard should the armed forces of states be held when they are in conflict with nonstate actors operating from within a civilian population. Certainly, these standards should be high, but they cannot be so high as to prevent states from acting in legitimate self-defense.

The Blood Libel Is Alive and Well over Gaza - Barry Rubin
A group of young Israeli soldiers met to evaluate their experiences in the Gaza war to see what could be learned from them. The next thing you know, there is a global news story about Israel committing war crimes. Given the eagerness to find Israel evil and guilty, it falls into the category of a "blood libel," the historic allegation that Jews murder Christian children to use their blood for matzo. The charges of war crimes and murder rest almost entirely on two stories. First, a Palestinian mother and daughter were shot by a sniper. An Israeli television station interviewed the soldier who had told this story and he stated that he had simply heard it as a rumor. In the second story, an officer told soldiers to shoot an old woman in the belief she might be a suicide bomber - and an argument broke out over whether to do it. It is not even clear that the woman was shot. And it highlights the caution and humanitarian standards of the Israeli army: enlisted men argued with an officer over obeying an order that soldiers in most armies would have obeyed without hesitation.
Much of the media has not learned from earlier experiences of being tricked by deliberately concocted stories about Israeli atrocities, like the Muhammad al-Dura affair in which charges that Israeli forces murdered a little boy in Gaza at the start of the Second Intifada were shown to be false. The fact remains that there is not a single documented case of any Israeli soldier violating international law or committing a war crime in Gaza - or Lebanon in 2006. And it isn't as if a lot of people haven't tried to find or manufacture such an event. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

Published in: ABA National Security Law Report, Vol. 31, pp. 1-6, February 2009
March 25, 2009
University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law: Georgetown University - Law CenterABA National Security Law Report, Vol. 31, pp. 1-6, February 2009

Churchill: 'Plagiarism Occurred' (But He Didn't Do It)

Abstract: This exchange on "Operation Cast Lead" - Israel's December 2008-January 2009 campaign in the Gaza Strip-includes essays by Guiora and Luban, followed by Guiora's response to Luban's essay and Luban's response to Guiora's. Luban argues that the Gaza campaign violated both the jus ad bellum and jus in bello proportionality principles. He also argues that the Hamas civil administration were not lawful targets under Israel's own interpretation of the law of armed conflict. Guiora argues that terrorism changes the landscape of armed conflict and requires a reconfiguration of international law. Under this reconfiguration, an entire terrorist organization may properly be targeted.


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thanks Harry.

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