Sunday, February 01, 2009

Israel vows "disproportionate" rocket response.

You seriously have to wonder if such a thing as a war crime even exists any more when you hear commentators debating whether or not the US should torture people - and arguing that it is bad for the US and dangerous that Obama has said that he will not do so - and then one reads Olmert casually making this assertion:

On Sunday Mr Olmert warned Israel would respond forcefully to renewed rocket fire.

"We've said that if there is rocket fire against the south of the country, there will be a disproportionate Israeli response to the fire on the citizens of Israel and its security forces," he said.

"We will not agree to return to the old rules of the game and we will act according to new rules that will guarantee that we are not dragged into an incessant tit-for-tat war that will not allow normal life in the south of the country," Mr Olmert said.
Those "old rules" that he is so casually refusing to abide by have another name: international law.

Israel have already been accused by the United Nations and several other organisations of committing war crimes and, especially the crime of responding disproportionately. Olmert's response is to actually promise to behave disproportionately in the future.

The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.

Those violations include:

Collective punishment: The entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.

Targeting civilians: The airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.

Disproportionate military response: The airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza's elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.

Olmert has been guilty of committing war crimes before, and he has certainly been guilty of using disproportionate force when he pummelled Beirut in response to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. And I certainly thought he committed a war crime when, in the final days of that war - even as the UN were meeting to bring about the final resolution - he dropped almost 100,000 cluster bombs into areas where he knew a civilian population would be returning to.

At the time the UN's humanitarian chief described Olmert's actions as "completely immoral" and it was hard to dispute his logic:
"What's shocking and completely immoral is: 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution," he said.

Mr Egeland added: "Cluster bombs have affected large areas - lots of homes, lots of farmland. They will be with us for many months, possibly years.


"Every day, people are maimed, wounded and killed by these weapons. It shouldn't have happened."
Why did Olmert do it? Because he has no fear of prosecution. Which is exactly the same reason he feels free to stand up now and promise to commit more war crimes, because he knows fine well that nothing will ever happen to him.

Until we stop thinking that war crimes are something which are only ever committed by our enemies, and not by us, then the Olmert's and the Bush's of this world will continue to believe that they can act with impunity.

That's why it's so important that the Bush administration are prosecuted for their crimes. Olmert simply wouldn't make such a promise if he ever believed that he might one day have to answer for it.

Related Articles:

Robert Fisk: When Did We Stop Caring About Civilian Deaths During Wartime?
"I wonder if we are “normalising” war. It’s not just that Israel has yet again got away with the killing of hundreds of children in Gaza.

And after its own foreign minister said that Israel’s army had been allowed to “go wild” there, it seems to bear out my own contention that the Israeli “Defence Force” is as much a rabble as all the other armies in the region. But we seem to have lost the sense of immorality that should accompany conflict and violence.

The BBC’s refusal to handle an advertisement for Palestinian aid was highly instructive. It was the BBC’s “impartiality” that might be called into question. In other words, the protection of an institution was more important than the lives of children. War was a spectator sport whose careful monitoring – rather like a football match, even though the Middle East is a bloody tragedy – assumed precedence over human suffering.
Click title for full article.

3 comments:

daveawayfromhome said...

I'm not quite sure I understand why both Israel and America havent been sanctioned by the rest of the world. Seems to me that in its current condition, the U.S. would not fare well should the rest of the world cut it off.

C U Vaird said...

There seems now to be a distinct possibility that the Israeli electorate will bring in a potentially dangerous, right-wing government headed by Likud's Netanyahu, the heir to Ariel Sharon. Ordinarily, this should have little interest for the wider world, as Israel is a tiny state with no natural resources, that is dependent on the US for economic and military aid.

However, because it has, (astonishingly), the largest, un-inspected nuclear weapons arsenal in the world, that is also outside the regulations of the (IAEA) International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN - it constitutes an immense and potentially terrifying danger to both Europe and the world. And as there is then the probability that either Netanyahu or Lieberman will have their fingers on the nuclear button and will not hesitate to press that button to fulfil their angst against Iran - we should be very scared.

Apart from the scenario of a Middle East going up in flames and stock markets around the world collapsing even further - Europe would be drawn into an escalating conflict that could well reach from Tehran to London, and all capitals in between. Gamma radiation, of course, taking no account of geographic, religious or political boundaries.

Unfortunately, most Europeans are susceptible to political propaganda and tend to believe that it's OK for Israel to take unilateral action - as it would make the world a safer place. Tragically, that is very far from the truth. The Israeli political system is known to be corrupt and self-serving and has no regard for the international community. That is why it regularly treats the United Nations with contempt, in addition to the international courts of justice and the Geneva Conventions.

This blog can do no more than be a voice in the wilderness, crying out to anyone who will listen that there is danger ahead. But, although nuclear war can obliterate both ourselves and our children - this is just a blog, and the radioactive cloud probably won't reach Washington.

Kel said...

Dave,

If the rest of the world had any actual power I feel as if those sanctions would already have been applied.

C U Vaird,

Like yourself, I am simply a voice in the wilderness and, if you know any better way than the route I am currently taking, all advice you have would be warmly welcome.

Although, I don't think Europeans are quite as gullible when it comes to Israel's attitude to international law as our friends across the pond.

That said, I honestly have great hope that Obama is not as easily fooled either.

The worst thing for Obama would be a Netanyahu victory come Feb 10; but, even then, in any battle of will between Netanyahu and Obama, my money would go on Obama.