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War crime?

Written By: - Date published: 5:26 pm, January 9th, 2009 - 35 comments
Categories: International - Tags: , , ,

Idiot/Savant seems to think so. DPF doesn’t. Robert Fisk does:

What happened was not just shameful. It was a disgrace. Would war crime be too strong a description? For that is what we would call this atrocity if it had been committed by Hamas. So a war crime, I’m afraid, it was.

35 comments on “War crime? ”

  1. Quoth the Raven 1

    You can add another one to that list now as Israeli troops failed to meet their obligations to care for wounded.

  2. A war crime of the highest degree. The Israeli government should be held hard to account.

    I would add that “was” is also in the past tense. Israel is committing warcrimes this very minute in Gaza.

  3. jake 3

    anything fisk describes as a war crime will be one-sided. has anyone ever read fistk describing rockets into israel as a war crime? and it’s not just israel.

  4. the sprout 4

    hmm, Robert Fisk as an informed source on the Middle East vs DPF…
    tough call

  5. Quoth the Raven 5

    Here’s one for the Israeli apologists: Gaza medics describe horror of strike which killed 70
    Concerns had been growing that Zeitoun had witnessed massive civilian casualties after surviving members of the Samouni clan reached Gaza City three days ago.

    They said that after the Israeli army first took the town on Saturday night soldiers had ordered about 100 members of the clan to gather in a single house owned by Wael Samouni around dawn on Sunday.

    At 6.35am on Monday the house was repeatedly shelled with appalling loss of civilian life.

    A handful of survivors, some wounded, others carrying dead or dying infants, made it on foot to Gaza’s main north-south road before they were given lifts to hospital. Three small children were buried in Gaza City that afternoon.

    According to the survivors between 60 and 70 family members had been killed by shrapnel and falling masonry.

    Convoys of ambulances twice headed to the area to look for wounded but they were driven back by Israeli shooting.

    So they ordered people into a house and then shelled it. Reading this sort of thing and then reading comments from jake brett et al make me sick. Fucking apologists.

  6. deemac 6

    whether or not something is a war crime is a matter of law, not opinion. Of course some breaches may be borderline but the Israelis have gone so far so often that there is no doubt at all they have committed war crimes.

  7. Zorr 7

    Just tuned in to a little of the BBC coverage and wandered the net looking at the stories surrounding some of the recent revelations… and then clicked on the link to DPF and read some of the comments.

    Now, to get this clear, I do not support Hamas. Yes, I am an anti-Zionist (mainly reflexively because I consider the Zionist viewpoint to be faulty) but no, this does not make me anti-semitic.

    However, a lot of the reports are coming from the UN aid agencies and the International Red Cross of situations that literally turned my stomach and nearly brought me to tears. Where people trapped by the shelling (after having been directed there by the Israeli army as described in the particular situation above) have died from combinations of injuries, lack of medication and lack of food and water. There were a few cases reported by the ICRC where the mothers had died first and then the children being looked after by them (mostly babies) being too weak to walk far or look after themselves had died. All behind the lines of Israeli soldiers and generally within 100m of Israeli positions.

    I cannot stand this and I do not believe that any sane person should be able to justify such actions. Israel is “fighting a war on terror” that in itself is horrific and disgusting. The big difference here is that because they are Israel, that somehow what they do is remotely justifiable? I don’t think I will ever fully realise the suffering of the civilians trapped in Gaza currently but it doesn’t mean I can’t fully empathise and feel sickened by the situation.

    But what pushes me over the edge… that brings out the ranter in me… is reading comments that disregard the massive human catastrophe that is currently unfolding in Gaza because “Hamas fired rockets at Israel”. Sorry folks, but if I was there now, I sure as hell wouldn’t be doing anything else.

  8. Ag 8

    I wonder how long it will take the Hasbara nuts to find this blog.

    I noticed you had one this morning, doing a copy-paste job.

    Richard Silverstein has an interesting article about them in today’s Guardian

    [lprent: If they act like trolls, then they are just trolls to me. I haven’t had much fun with trolls for a while… 😈 ]

  9. Mark Webster 9

    What Israel is doing is clearly over the top and ridiculous. It’s awful I make no bones about it, and no apology for Israel’s actions which have been reprehensible on every level.
    But if I was living in a tiny country, impoverished, surrounded (mostly) by a much more powerful, hostile and militaristic nation, why in hell would I continuously fire random rockets at it? Someone, somewhere clearly needs a head examination.

  10. lprent 10

    I suspect that it is the usual problem.

    When you neighbour state makes a habit of blowing up the police stations and targeting the police – how exactly is the state going to stop groups who want to break the ceasefire.

    Read back on recent history in Gaza and you’ll find that every time that the Israeli’s target the police first. I’ll bet that no-one gives life insurance coverage to police (or medical workers, or aid workers) in Gaza.

  11. deemac 11

    a key definition of insanity is repeatedly performing an action while expecting a different result from the one that always occurs. This is what Israel does; every time it attacks the Palestinians they say it will make the situation better, but it always makes the situation worse.
    Of course Hamas are nuts too but it is well documented that if you put people in an impossible situation for long enough they react violently. Israel actually created Hamas by refusing to deal honestly with Fatah.

  12. Lew 12

    War crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace (per the Nuremberg Principles, but hereafter just `war crimes’) are likely committed in any war (just like traffic offences are likely committed on every road) because the definition of what constitutes a war crime is quite broad. This is important, because it has (or should have) a normative effect on participants to a war.

    However, for war crimes to be bought to trial, they must meet much more strenuous tests of severity, veracity and accountability. This is important too, because it ensures that war crimes are not taken lightly and the term is not bandied about as freely as it otherwise might be.

    It’s my view that there have been war crimes committed on both sides of the current conflict, but that they are, if you’ll excuse the reference to the s59 debate, `technical’ breaches of international or humanitarian law rather than the sort of breaches which might validly find themselves before an International Criminal Tribunal. I also think that there are historical cases which were clearly and manifestly such crimes (Sabra/Shatilla, for instance), and yet went unpunished, and this raises problems of precedent. Many of these will be dealt with internally, and pressure must certainly be brought to bear upon those agencies charged with maintaining (para)military discipline. But I think it’d be somewhat frivolous to try to take the IDF to the Hague for Gaza 09. (Not that it’d ever happen anyway, but that’s a political matter).


  13. Lew 13

    Not that I don’t think people shouldn’t try to put together a war crimes prosecution, if they have the evidence – by all means, if they can, they must.


  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    Yes, but Lew, who’s going to do so? And, just as importantly, will it make a difference?

    Israel has numerous UNSC resolutions against them and they’ve ignored every single one of hem.

  15. Can the glorified skyrockets really justify all of this now?

  16. Lew 16

    DTB: Right, it’s all moot, really. They can start with 242 any time they’re prepared to abide by international law.

    But just because they’ve not yet been held to account doesn’t mean people should stop trying to hold them to account.


  17. Quoth the Raven 17

    Richard Seymour is on fire covering the Gaza situation. Read his blog. Especially the latest post. Astonishing.

  18. Peter Burns 18

    “Because Zionism is sick, twisted and cruel.”

    We agree Quoth, thanks for the link. The New World Order is going to plan.

    Edit ; if I do not return you know who came to visit.
    Cheers , go the black caps.

  19. Westminster 19

    I don’t get the whole Right/Left dimension to this and global warming. To a moderate person, you judge a situation on its particular circumstances not adopt some automatic position based on your politics. It’s hard not to see how the Israeli’s actions are anything but tragically disproportionate. A humanitarian crisis is in full bloom. It’s clear to anyone without blinkers on. But you read the Kiwiblog Right and it’s so simple. Israel is right and the folk they’re bombing are Islamic/Arab Terrorists. It’s so cut and dry. How did we end up with such a partisan view on what any reasonable person would view as a tragedy? It’s like global warming. There’s clear evidence and scientific consensus. But the Right is throwing up automatic kneejerk reactions because of their politics. Both this issue and climate change seem to me to transcend Right/Left analyses. But the Kiwiblog Right reveal their shallow slovenly partisan thinking.

  20. Lew 20

    WM: To a moderate person, you judge a situation on its particular circumstances not adopt some automatic position based on your politics.

    This isn’t the definition of a moderate, this is the definition of anyone who’s intellectually honest.

    Most people in the world are, they just don’t have as much information as they need to make a decision based on the facts, and so they repair to the safe havens of ideology. The KBR, and plenty of commenters here and elsewhere in the blogosphere for that matter, carry on as if they’ve got all the information they need, and then repair to ideology anyway.

    Incidentally, I’ve been watching the Gaza discussions on KB with interest, and especially the comments of reid. He’s not a lefty or a peacenik of any sort, and he’s not even taking a pro-Palestine or anti-Israel line – just the pragmatic observation that if Israel genuinely wants peace, they’re clearly going about it the wrong way and need to reevaluate their positions. And for this, he gets shouted down as being an Islamist Hamas supporter who hates Jews and liberty and motherhood and apple pie.

    For shame.


  21. Ag 21

    But just because they’ve not yet been held to account doesn’t mean people should stop trying to hold them to account.

    I don’t know about that. It’s most likely that they will never be held to account.

    One way of looking at this, and at the Lebanon war of 2006, is that it is the Israeli establishment testing the waters for expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. Such expulsion would not look that much different from what is happening now, and the world seems prepared to do nothing other than splutter in outrage. The more stuff like this carries on, the more Palestinians will look to leave, and who could blame them.

    It’s not like they can afford not to, since Jews already number under half of the population of Israel/Palestine, and that is just going to get worse for them as time moves on.

    Sure, they’re scum. But they’re scum who have bought off the US.

  22. Lew 22

    Ag: I don’t know about that. It’s most likely that they will never be held to account.

    Does that mean people should stop trying? Public discourse about war crimes is every bit as important as their prosecution, since they make the political and civil leaders responsible for the supposed crimes vulnerable to political and legal censure.


  23. outofbed 23

    Lew Reid ? 🙂

  24. Draco T Bastard 24

    But just because they’ve not yet been held to account doesn’t mean people should stop trying to hold them to account.

    True. At present it comes down to the fact that governments around the world aren’t doing so and often against the wishes of their people. Often it appears that those governments aren’t doing anything because they want to remain friends with the USA/UK.

    As people become more informed hopefully they will make more noise about the atrocities that Israel, with help from the USA/UK, is perpetrating against the Palestinians. Eventually the governments will have to listen – we hope.

  25. Ag 25

    Public discourse about war crimes is every bit as important as their prosecution, since they make the political and civil leaders responsible for the supposed crimes vulnerable to political and legal censure.

    And Henry Kissinger still walks the earth. Our “war criminals” are never brought to justice. I cannot think of one myself. Tony Blair will probably live to a ripe old age and earn millions giving speeches about his crimes.

    If the public wants to punish these people, then direct action is the only way. I’d personally like to see Blair tarred and feathered.

  26. Lew 26

    Ag: And nobody has yet been held to account for the Cambodian genocide. Or the Rwandan genocide. Or the Stalinist gulags. It’s not just our war criminals who go unpunished.

    So your way is clear, then. If you get the tar, I’m sure you’ll find no shortage of people who’ll bring feathers.

    Warning: may have unintended consequences.


  27. Kerry 27

    All of the Israeli government should be charged with war crimes and taken to the Haag….just like Milosovich and the like!

    Of course along with them should go that wast of space GW Bush.

  28. Lew 28

    Further to my comment in reply to Westminster, I have just been made aware of this: http://picayune.uclick.com/comics/nq/2009/nq090111.gif


  29. Quoth the Raven 29

    Lew – Some have been held to account over the Rwandan and Cambodian genocides. Very few though. Especially few of those at higher levels.

  30. Ag 30

    It’s not just our war criminals who go unpunished.

    Logical fallacy. I did not say that. I can’t think of one of ours who was punished. Some of the others may get away with it, but that doesn’t prevent western government officials from basically being immune to prosecution.

  31. Kerry

    And what about the leader of Hamas, who doesnt seem to think there is anything wrong with strapping a bomb to yourself and blowing up innocent people.

  32. Lew 32

    QtR: Actually, about Rwanda, you’re right – a few of them got life sentences for crimes against humanity a couple of weeks ago.

    Cambodia is a different matter, though – Pol Pot, Son Sen, Ta Mok and others have found their sweet hereafter without suffering any earthly justice beyond their own thuggish regimes. The noxious Ieng Sary got himself born-again and surrendered, now lives a life of comparative luxury with armed bodyguards paid for by Hun Sen’s government. Khieu Samphan not much different.

    Ag: I agree – just because one escaped justice doesn’t mean others should. My point is that war crimes everywhere are poorly prosecuted.


  33. RedLogix 33

    I agree – just because one escaped justice doesn’t mean others should. My point is that war crimes everywhere are poorly prosecuted.

    At many times in human history even the most basic of crimes such as murder, rape and theft were poorly prosecuted. As time progressed we got better at it.

    Same with war crimes.

    The difficulty I think most people have with the notion, is that in essence ALL war is a crime, whether or not it the participants abide by a set of arbitary rules or otherwise.

    Yet at the same time, it is difficult to imagine any form of human governance that at some level does not have access to forceful means. All societies have required a warrior, military, police or security forces to impose the rule of law where necessary.

    The point of transition we are at is this. We are at the end of the era of the sovereign national state. Many people now sense in one way or another that it is a unacceptable, it is a crime, for nation states to engage in war of ANY kind. The only form of military action that will have moral legitimacy in the future will be that sanctioned by a global body, with a mandate derived from the participation of all humanity.

    Since the end of WW2 the nations of the world have had the opportunity to make this transition using the vehicle of the UN. We have failed to take this rational option. Reality is however a bitch, our failure to take the easy path has compelled us inevitably onto a harder one.

  34. Lew 34

    RL: I feel your use of terminology is a bit loose. You also seem to be making normative statements as if they’re descriptive.

    in essence ALL war is a crime, whether or not it the participants abide by a set of arbitary rules or otherwise.

    The only thing which makes anything illicit, including `war’ or the actions which make up its component parts, because of the `arbitrary rules’ we construct to make it so. Absent those rules, anything goes, as the realists like to say. And it is this tension between the realist tradition and the liberal-internationalist/just war traditions whcih create the quandary we have at present with a properly-constituted body capable of defining and prosecuting war crimes, which almost never does so, and when it does, is highly selective.

    But returning to the initial assertion, that all war is a crime. Under the philosophical framework of `just war’, this is only really true of wars which are enacted for reasons other than self-defence within certain (quite strictly defined) parameters. Such wars as these are not in themselves criminal – although actions taken within them may well be -but a perfectly proportionate, defensive war, one which inflicts the minimum necessary casualties on an aggressor state to prevent their aggression is just in international law. You can argue `all war is crime’ as a (somewhat naive) normative statement, but that’s not how things are in the actual world.

    We are at the end of the era of the sovereign national state.

    The only real indication of this is the EU, and even that is but a veneer of unity over a bunch of (reasonably friendly) rivalries. Nationalism still abounds. Again: you might wish, but that don’t make it so.

    The only form of military action that will have moral legitimacy in the future will be that sanctioned by a global body, with a mandate derived from the participation of all humanity.

    We have an imperfect approximation of that in the UN, and it does just as you say: grant legitimacy to war in a limited range of cases.

    Since the end of WW2 the nations of the world have had the opportunity to make this transition using the vehicle of the UN. We have failed to take this rational option.

    No, we haven’t failed – it’s a work in progress. The UN is an expression of the doctrine of liberal internationalism in a world where realism is still arguably the dominant paradigm of inter-state negotiation. Realism doesn’t account for concepts of trust or cooperation except based on hard and fast mutual benefit – that we have treaties on disarmament, embargos on certain munitions, and laws of war which are frequently (though not universally) adhered to despite the fact that they weaken a combatant state’s military position is an absolute triumph of diplomacy. To argue that the military philosophies of Aristotle and Aquinas might hold their own or even take precedence over those of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz a century ago would have been absurd, and now it is (slowly becoming) a reality.

    Reality is however a bitch, our failure to take the easy path has compelled us inevitably onto a harder one.

    If you think stitching together a supra-national world government would be easy, even after WWII, you’re delusional. You might argue that failure to take the hard path has compelled us to take the harder one, but even so: I’d argue that humanity did take the hard path by persisting with the idea of a supra-state body after the singular failure of the League of Nations post-WWI. By rights, and realists everywhere argued for it, the whole idea should have been discarded and the world revert to the formation of uneasy power blocs. The UN might be weaker than we’d like, but it’s stronger than what we’ve ever had, and that is the definition of progress.


  35. todd 35

    [deleted. We don’t want your anti-semetism here. SP]

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