Friday, July 14, 2006

More Europeans who don't get it

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung has a story (it's more like an opinion piece) on human rights and international law experts' evaluations of the Israeli response. Of course, all of the "experts" cited in the article deny that Israel has a right to act as it has in the past few days. This excerpt sums up the overall tenor:
Auch Völkerrechtler kritisieren das Ausmaß der israelischen Vergeltungsschläge. Unumstritten ist freilich, dass sich Israel nach Artikel 51 der UN-Charta gegen „bewaffnete Angriffe“ verteidigen darf.
Ob die vereinzelten Überfälle libanesischer Hisbollah-Kämpfer auf israelische Grenzposten bereits Angriffe in diesem Sinne sind, ist strittig. Ebenso die Frage, ob der libanesische Staat überhaupt für die Aktionen der Hisbollah verantwortlich ist.

International law specialists, too, criticize the extent of the Israeli retaliation strikes. Certainly, the right of Israel to defend itself against "armed attacks," according to Article 51 of the UN Charter, is undisputed.

But whether isolated ambushes of Israeli border outposts by Lebanese Hizbullah fighters already qualify as attacks in this sense is debatable. Similarly questionable is whether the Lebanese state is responsible for the actions of Hizbullah at all.
Entering another country's territory to kidnap soldiers, shelling civilian settlements and military outposts, and, to top it all off, firing rockets at its cities - all these do not qualify as "attacks"?

I think what the Europeans expect Israel to do is to wait until it loses 20 civilians in a missile attack on Tel Aviv. They don't understand that if Israel wants to maintain any sort of deterrence to prevent something terrible like that from happening, it has to react with "disproportionate" force.


John said...

The problem is that international law has yet to figure out how to deal with non-state actors and asymmetrical warfare.

Noah S. said...

John is right. International law is based on the actions of sovereign states, which is why Israel's attacks are only considered legitimate if the state of Lebanon can be established as ultimately responsible for paramilitary assaults. For this reason, until the actual Lebanese army strikes and/or God forbid more Israelis die, Israel's responses will always be construed as disproportionate, being official state military responses inflicting "collective punishment" on another state that denies responsibility for its individual citizens' actions. This is one of the many reasons paramilitary forces inside a state with an official army are so insidious. But few on the left are up in arms about the Lebanese government's refusal to disarm Hizbollah. Go figure.

International law is bantied about as if it were the gospel itself. Human rights activists have been citing int'l law for years to condemn Israel's "disproportionate" collective punishment for the crimes of suicide bombers. They expect everyone to play by the rules -- but there are no rules in guerilla warfare or terrorism, or when a paramilitary force is used (or at least tolerated) as a proxy for a state military.

In other words, Israel IS technically violating international law, but that law is full of holes when it provides states no protection from state-tolerated paramilitaries. Why do you think the U.S. and Israel have needed to pass all these laws to establish the cateogry of "illegal combattant"?

Just as a last thought, Amos, I still insist that we refrain from using the phrase "the Europeans" in our discussions...

Former Belgian said...

How about "Euranians" (from Euranus) instead of "the Europeans"? (Because yes, there are some Euros who do get it.)