Sunday, April 08, 2018

You Don't Need Hyperbole When The Truth Works Fine

International Law Professor Yuval Shany has an outstanding post working through the legal use-of-force issues surrounding the Gaza protests at the Israel/Palestine border. The reason that it's outstanding is that it takes seriously the fact that some of the protesters may be violent and may be trying to breach the border -- it isn't just people randomly waving flags. Many pro-Israel commentators have made this observation and acted as if that were that -- a dismissal made easier when pro-Palestinian voices have acted as if there was no component of armed violence in the equation at all.

Yet my instinct was that, even if there were actual attempts to cross the border or even some use of violent force (e.g., stone throwing), this wouldn't necessarily suffice to justify the use of lethal force by IDF. Shany's post explains why in detail, fully attentive to the actual security concerns faced by Israel, and that makes it far more powerful as a critique of the IDF's conduct -- conduct that seems very likely to have violated international law -- than the median post which treats those concerns as non-existent.

Of course, it may seem silly to go into a fine-grained, nuanced explanation of why IDF use-of-force practices on the Gaza border have been unlawful when Avigdor Liberman is explicitly saying that every single human being in Gaza is a valid target for lethal force.
"It has to be understood that there are no innocent [naive] people in Gaza," Liberman added. "Everyone is affiliated with Hamas, they are all paid by Hamas, and all the activists trying to challenge us and breach the border are operatives of its military wing."
The strike-out is there because Liberman claims he's been mistranslated in the use of the word tamim. But I don't think it materially alters the point he was making, which more-or-less explicitly labels the entire Gaza population as members of a hostile military force who are therefore valid targets for lethal force.

More and more, it seems that the IDF prefers calling itself "the most moral army in the world" to actually acting like "the most moral army in the world." The way you become and then stay a "moral" army is via discipline, and discipline means actually investigating and punishing potential violations of the rules of armed conflict. But Liberman refuses to even countenance an investigation -- well, unless it's of human rights groups asking that soldiers not shoot unarmed civilians across the border. A culture of impunity will yield a culture of violation -- there is nothing in the Israeli or Jewish soul that renders us immune from the general rules of human behavior.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

According to Ha'aretz, an operational investigation (i.e., not a criminal investigation) into the deaths of the protestors is to be launched by the IDF. Lieberman's comments were made over a week ago, and I can only hope they do not reflect the sentiments that, on reflection, he would wish to be associated with his office.

Thanks for the pointer to Yuval Shany's comment. I think the legal analysis is almost certainly correct, but I'd like to know more about the facts at issue before even trying to apply it.