Thursday, December 23, 2010

UN Condemns Hamas And Defends Israel's Right To Self-Defense (Sort Of)

Two days ago, Israel submitted a complaint to UN regarding the continued rocket attacks on Israeli citizens from Gaza:
21 Dec 2010

Israel Ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben

H.E. Ms. Susan E. Rice
President of the Security Council
United Nations
New York


I write to inform you of a series of serious incidents in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip that threaten peace and stability in our region.

Earlier today, 21 December 2010, at approximately 8 am local time, a Qassam rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip into Ashkelon area of Southern Israel, landing in Kibbutz Zikim. This rocket exploded nearby a kindergarten just as dozens of parents were dropping off their children at school, injuring a 14-year old girl.

Today's incident follows a spate of attacks emanating from Gaza since 19 December 2010, encompassing the launch of some three rockets and 18 mortars into the regions of Eshkol and Ashkelon in Southern Israel. These attacks included the launch of six mortars on 19 December 2010 at IDF forces operating near the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

The incidents of the past several days are part of an escalation of terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza that target Israeli civilians, towns, and military personnel. Israel holds the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip completely responsible for all of these incidents, which are carried
out in clear violation of international law. In response to such attacks, Israel has exercised and will continue to exercise its right to self-defense.
Read the whole thing.

Now it looks like the complaint got results: after Hamas fired the rockets and Israel has responded, the UN has issued a statement--condemning Hamas and backing Israel:
The United Nations on Wednesday sharply condemned a rise in cross-border attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza, a day after a rocket exploded close to an Israeli kindergarten.

The U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said rocket strikes from Gaza at Israel, which had escalated in recent days, were "in clear violation of international humanitarian law" and endangered civilians.

The criticism drew a strong response from Hamas, the militant Islamist group which controls the enclave under Israeli blockade, which said Serry's remarks reflected "double standards."

In two days this week at least 14 rockets and mortars were fired at southern Israeli territory.

Israel has launched air strikes in response, including one which killed five Palestinian militants at the weekend, the highest single toll since a three-week Israel offensive in Gaza two years ago in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died.

The U.N. envoy noted the Israeli air strikes, saying Israel had "a right to self-defense consistent with international humanitarian law." He urged maximum restraint and "every precaution to ensure Israeli forces do not endanger civilians in Gaza."
However, as Evelyn Gordon notes--the UN defense of Israel's self-defense against Hamas was conditional. Serry could have just said that Israel had "a right to self-defense":
Had the sentence ended there, it would have been fine. But it didn’t. Israel, said Serry, has “a right to self-defense consistent with international humanitarian law” [emphasis added] — which requires it to “exercise maximum restraint and take every precaution to ensure Israeli forces do not endanger civilians in Gaza.”

And that’s where the whole concept breaks down. Because what happens when “maximum restraint” and taking “every precaution” fail to stop the rocket fire? After all, we already know they will: Israel tried precisely this kind of pinpoint strike — in which pilots are strictly forbidden to fire if there’s any chance of hitting civilians — for three years after leaving Gaza in 2005, but it had no effect whatsoever on the daily rocket fire.

That’s why Israel finally went to war two years ago. It still worked hard to avoid hurting civilians: with even Hamas now admitting that it lost some 700 combatants, it’s clear that civilians constituted only about 40 percent of fatalities — far below the 90 percent norm for modern warfare. But this certainly wasn’t an exercise in “maximum restraint.” It was a full-scale military operation.
That reference to the 90% civilian casualty rate norm is from a New York Times article on Iraq, which concludes:
Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Human Rights groups don't have to consider 90% to be acceptable, but in their desire to change it they should  at least admit what the current reality is--and that Israel's 40% rate of civilian casualties, and the measures it takes to insure that, is a vast improvement.

Instead, as Gordon notes, by pursuing their agenda without regard to the realities of war, these self-described "human rights" groups have created a new problem:
under the modern conception of “international humanitarian law,” countries have two choices: either use “maximum restraint” and take “every precaution” to avoid hurting enemy civilians, with the result that lethal attacks against your own civilians continue undisturbed, or take effective military action to protect your own civilians and be branded a war criminal.
Innocent civilians continue to die, it's just that the attacked country will bear the brunt.
All these groups end up doing is tying the hands of the attacked countries and giving the terrorists free rein.
No country can allow that--least of all Israel

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