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The Day in Israel: Fri Mar 20th, 2009

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Egyptian sources said that Israel had made no efforts to renew talks on Gilad Shalit’s release. Meanwhile, Gilad’s grandfather is no longer hoping for his release but rather his rescue operation.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

3:05PM: Who said this?

“The people of _____ have superior historic memories from the times when Iran flourished in all fields… Iran and its people have a special place in our heritage”

a) Israeli President Shimon Peres

b) North Korean leader Kim Jong-il

c) Libyan Leader Muammar al-Gaddafi

d) Syrian President Bashar Assad

e) Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah

Answer is here.

2:48PM: Egyptian sources have reportedly said a prisoner swap deal is likely to be achieved before outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leaves office.

9:00AM: UN “special rapporteur on human rights”/anti-Israel nutjob Richard Falk is doing what he loves. Bashing Israel.

Richard Falk, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the Geneva Conventions required warring forces to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians.

“If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law,” Falk said.

Let’s look at that, shall we (disclosure: I studied International Law at Law School, so I have some familiarity with the topic).

Article 52 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1) provides, inter alia:

Protection of the civilian population
1. The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations. To give effect to this protection, the following rules, which are additional to other applicable rules of international law, shall be observed in circumstances.

2. The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.

3. Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Section, unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.

4. Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate attacks are:

(a) Those which are not directed at a specific military objective;

(b) Those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or

(c) Those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by this Protocol; and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.

5. Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate:

(a) An attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and

(b) An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

6. Attacks against the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited.

Falk is wrong when he claims the ability to distinguish between military targets and surrounding civilians is the determining factor for whether or not an attack constitutes a war crime. The key is whether or not an attack could be expected to cause loss of civilian life and damage “excessive” in relation to the “concrete and direct military advantage” anticipated.

On this count, a strong argument could be made that Israel did not launch attacks expected to cause damage “excessive” in relation to the military advantages anticipated. Israeli attempted pinpoint strikes of targets, used ground troops where the risk of civilian casualties from an air strike (which posed less risk to our troops) was too high and even dropped pamphlets to warn civilians before an area was struck (pursuant to article 57). These targets were predominantly rocket launchers, weapons storehouses and ticking bomb terrorists, where there was clearly “a concrete and direct military advantage anticipated” (the advantage being to stop the rocket attacks that had been launched into southern Israel for the past number of years).

The Geneva Convention did not intend a situation in which one warring party could rely on its provisions so as to prevent the other party from fighting back in a case where the first party hides behind its own own civilians. As Article 51.7 provides:

7. The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.

So in summary, Israel’s actions in Operation Cast Lead do not “constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law.” The only thing which is of the “greatest magnitude” is Falk’s bulbous shnoz.

falk

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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