Saturday, January 17, 2009

Justice in War?

Following up my post from yesterday, today's papers continue to supply news and comment. First, The New York Times and several others covered the possibility of an Israeli cease-fire -- Ha'aretz, for example in Barak: Israel 'very close' to achieving goals of Gaza offensive. The Times also has an article about the cease fire possibility.

Especially important, the Times published a detailed and useful discussion of the war:

Weighing Crimes and Ethics in Urban War

Whatever the results of the war in Gaza, Israel is again facing serious accusations over the legality of its military conduct.
A friend in London also wrote me a long and thoughtful comment on my article, for which I'm grateful. She brought up some of the questions discussed in the Times article about what actions in an urban battle, where fighters hide among civilians, can be justified. Here are her words:
I don't know what Israel is supposed to do. I feel that they are always "suckered" into responding because Hamas (or Hizbollah) needles them intolerably and that Hamas is to blame for what is going on. They poke the stick until Israel feels it has to respond & then they play the "Oh, look at these terrible Israelis killing our civilians" card. What can Israel do to neutralise this PR? I don't know. However, destroying UN buildings doesn't seem a clever thing to do in the circumstances. I have no idea if it was avoidable in either instance. What I have noted is that the initial reports were that 40 were killed when the Israelis shelled the UN school that was being used as a shelter but that now that "War crimes" are being mentioned by the UNHCR the citation is for 2 deaths. [Note: my friend is unsure about the details of this event and the UNHCR citation, which are discussed at length in the Erlanger article. The numbers are controversial.]

I have also been disturbed by the violence in UK streets around the Israeli embassy in London when anti-war demonstrations have been allowed by the police and by the reports of rises in anti-semitic attacks within the UK "because of what the Israelis are doing". I believe Muslims (and others) are using the "war" as an excuse for anti-semitic behaviour. And, for that matter, an excuse for whipping up anti American and anti British sentiment in Islamic countries.

As always, I am glad I am not a politician. I have no idea how things can be progressed from this point to give a durable peace in the Middle East (which is supposedly the aim, even for Arabic states) but I do know that the Irish ... joke about the Irish farmer being asked for directions and answering "Well, if you want to get there, I wouldn't start from here" is totally apt.

No comments: