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More on Straw

The more I read about Jack Straw’s response to the Yassin killing, the more I seethe.

Here is a reminder of what the Strawman had to say:

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on arrival at a European Union foreign ministers’ meeting that while Israel had a “need to defend itself” against terrorists, if it wanted to have “the full support of the international community, it needed to do so within the boundaries set by international law”.

This is the same Jack Straw who said that Britain’s decision to join the invasion of Iraq was “justified on the basis of all the intelligence available.” And we all know that the war in Iraq was not fully supported by the international community.

Mr Straw, Israel was operating “within the boundaries set by international law.” And on this point, I invoke Dershowitz.

..there can be absolutely no doubt of the legality of Israel’s policy of targeting Hamas leaders for assassination. Hamas has declared war against Israel. All of its leaders are combatants, whether they wear military uniforms, suits or religious garb. There is no realistic distinction between the political and military wings of Hamas, any more than there is a distinction between the political and military wings of al-Qaeda. The official policy of Hamas, like that of al Qaeda, is the mass murder of civilians. The decision to employ that policy was made by its so-called “political” leaders.

The United States properly targeted Osama bin Laden and his associates, as well as Saddam Hussein and his sons. Under international law, combatants are appropriate military targets until they surrender. They may be killed in their sleep, while preparing military actions or while participating in any other activity. They need not be arrested, or even given a chance to surrender. Only if they come out with their hands up, or waving a white flag, or affirmatively manifesting surrender by some other means, may they avoid the ultimate sanction of a war they started, namely death.

Military law does of course require that purely civilian casualties be minimized, even in pursuit of legitimate military targets. Both the United States and Israel seek to minimize purely civilian deaths, in part because neither has any incentive to kill entirely innocent civilians. When Israel recently went after Sheik Ahmed Yassin (how topical! – Ed), the head of Hamas, it deliberately used a 500-pound bomb in order to minimize collateral damage. As a result, its legitimate target escaped with minor injuries. Had Israel not cared about collateral damage, it could easily have used a multi-ton bomb, which would have assured Sheik Yassin’s death, but also increased the likelihood of killing more innocent bystanders.

Precisely how much collateral damage is too much is a matter of degree, but international law does not condemn the targeting of combatants unless the number of innocents killed in the process is completely out of proportion to the importance of the military objective. Preventing terrorist leaders from planning, approving or carrying out acts of terrorism against innocent civilians is an important and appropriate military objective.

Mr Straw might also learn a thing or two by reading “Israelis are sitting ducks in war against terrorism” by international law expert Anne Bayefsky.

Too many times, leaders lack the courage to stand up for what is right and morally correct, hiding behing pseudo-legal jargon to obfuscate the simple truth: evil people who murder innocent people should be stopped, while people who are simply trying to protect themselves from being murdered by the aforementioned evil people should not be stopped.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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