Sunday, October 08, 2006

8-Oct-06: Cluster of Critics Assails Israeli Self-Defence

In the wake of a war claimed as a "divine victory" by "Shiite and Hizbullah [forces] over the Zionist regime", Israel is now in the cross-hairs of global critics for what are claimed to be a million unexploded cluster bombs scattered across the Lebanese countryside.

A syndicated UPI story from Friday ("Unexploded Israeli bombs threaten Lebanese") covers the main issues:
"U.N. officials said it will take more than a year to clear out the estimated 1 million unexploded Israeli bomblets, The New York Times reported Friday. The Times said the bomblets outnumber the 650,000 people living in the southern Lebanon region where they are located. Unexploded cluster bombs had injured 109 people and killed 18 others as of Sept. 28, Lebanese officials said. The U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center in southern Lebanon said unexploded bombs have been found in 745 locations across the south and 4,500 of the estimated 1 million unexploded bombs have been disposed of. Israel has faced criticism from U.N. officials, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for using the cluster bombs, which are legal for use against military targets. However, the groups say the bombs are difficult to focus exclusively on military targets and can harm civilians. Israel has also been criticized for allegedly dropping most of the bombs in the final days of the conflict, while peace negotiations were ongoing."
Dr Gerald Steinberg directs the Program on Conflict Management at Bar Ilan University and is the editor of He has some pungent comments -- better to describe them as home truths -- in response. They're not yet published, but probably will be by the time this blog item reaches you:

Self-Defence and the Rules of War
- Gerald M. Steinberg
Jerusalem: In the recent Lebanon war, Israel was attacked with daily barrages of hundreds of rockets, launched indiscriminately by Hezbollah from trucks and other platforms located in towns, villages and fields. These weapons struck Israeli hospitals, schools, houses, workplaces, streets, and even civilians in their cars. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had the obligation to stop these deaths and injuries. In the effort to meet this requirement, the IDF used different tactics and weapons, including cluster bombs, which break into multiple sub-munitions in order to hit weapons, including rocket launchers whose precise location is unknown or changing.
During and after the war, the United Nations Human Rights Council and powerful NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, condemned Israel repeatedly for using cluster bombs. The NGOs are running a campaign for a treaty to ban the use of these weapons, and has issued a barrage of press releases, reports and statements on the injuries caused to Lebanese by the remnants of these weapons. According to HRW, the US government heeded its demand to halt deliveries of these weapons to Israel during the war. On the surface, it would seem that the campaign on this issue was both morally justified and effective.
But a deeper examination of the issues shows fundamental flaws that undermine both the moral argument and NGO claim to a central role in negotiating arms limitation agreements.
Morally and logically, every nation under attack has the right to self-defense, and the rules of law, including various weapons bans that have been adopted, cannot result in greater slaughter of civilians. The first treaty banning the use of chemical weapons after the mass casualties of World War I was adopted in large part because they were also ineffective and did not fulfill any military objectives. Other agreements and prohibitions, such as those placed on aerial bombardment, were short-lived and largely ignored because of their military importance, both for offense and self-defense. The efforts to expand partial agreements on the prohibition of land mines have failed precisely because in many cases, no one has presented a better way to protect people, facilities, and nations from attack. Morally and tragically, in an environment of bitter conflict and terrorism, the use of land mines for security can be the lesser of the evils.
Similarly, in repeated condemnations of Israel for the use of cluster munitions, activist groups such as Amnesty and HRW failed to suggest a realistic and effective alternative against deadly rocket attacks. Although largely missing from HRW's campaigns, there is no question that morally, Hezbollah's arsenal of thousands of Syrian and Iranian-made rockets purposely used to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible constitutes the core violation of human rights and an obvious violation of international law. Massive Israeli ground and air attacks designed to find and destroy the rocket-launchers scattered throughout Southern Lebanon would have taken many more lives. This is the ugly calculus of war, and attempts to ignore this reality of human existence are both irrational and unethical.
In their campaign against Israeli use of cluster munitions, HRW and Amnesty are also coming with unclean hands and a not-so-hidden agenda. Officials from both played an active role in the infamous NGO forum of the 2001 Durban conference, which adopted a strategy to delegitimize the very existence of Israel. Their numerous publications and statements condemning Israeli responses to Palestinian terror far outnumbered the organization's reports condemning suicide bombings.
In this context, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth [not related to the authors of this blog], who clearly has no military expertise or experience, demanded that Israel arrest Palestinian terrorists in Gaza and Jenin, and bring them to trial – a policing approach, which, when attempted, often resulted in much greater violence. In the case of the cluster bomb campaign, HRW is not even suggesting an alternative.
These NGO officials have also used the millions of dollars at their disposal to join the political crusade against Israel's security barrier and in promoting dubious claims that fed boycott campaigns. The allegations in these reports were based on false or unverifiable claims of Palestinian "eyewitnesses" – a pattern repeated in by HRW and Amnesty during the Lebanon war. When Israel tried to use larger single-explosive weapons against Hezbollah rocket attacks, this was condemned as "indiscriminate force". Every Israeli defense is labeled as unacceptable.
HRW's central role in promoting international agreements to ban land mines is also tainted by a strong dose of anti-Israel propaganda. In a conference on this issue that took place in Geneva in 2000, in which I participated, HRW-funded participants from Palestinian, Egyptian, and other NGOs ignored the land mine issues and instead used this opportunity for unrelated Israel-bashing. The annual report on landmines distributed at the conference, and published by an HRW affiliate, featured a bogus cover photo related to Israel, and the chapters on Israel and the Palestinians included false or misleading information.
In contrast, those who are motivated by genuine humanitarian concerns must present workable alternatives in pursuing prohibitions on specific weapons, including cluster bombs. A treaty that effectively prevents nations and people under attack from acting in legitimate self-defense is worse than useless – it is also immoral.
Whether or not it's possible or credible for anyone to state with accuracy (is there some way for them to know?) the number of unexploded bombs in Lebanon, it's an undisputed fact that the Hizbollah leadership states very proudly, very publicly that it holds an enormous arsenal of death. And that it is preparing to deploy it against Israel's civilian population again. In his widely-reported speech in Beirut on 21st September, Hizbollah chief Nassrallah rejected international calls to disarm his terrorist army, telling a huge "victory" rally his forces have more than 20,000 rockets pointed at Israel - five times more than the total number fired by Hizbollah into Israel during the war, and higher than any previous figure Nasrallah has given. "...There is no army in the world that can (force us) to drop our weapons from our hands, from our grip."

HRW and Amnesty are presumably gearing up for a full-press media attack on his murderous plans.

In your dreams.


Anonymous said...

Steinberg's comments about NGOs in general are eye-popping. Why isn't this sort of criticism of their activity more widely available?

We're the ones who have to put up with them said...

I'm very sorry for the loss of your daughter and thank you for channeling your loss into this very important work.

I appreciate your posts very much. It is important that people hear this perspective. What is published in our newspapers in the US is very one-sided.


The-View-From-Ramot said...

Thank you, MizEllie, and happy birthday to you.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

Let me say though, that the use of cluster bombs on civilians is illegal, wrong and immoral.

You cannot possibly defend this.

Israel proves again and again that it has no moral high ground. It has no right to exist, and the support for her continued existence is eroding.

I am not hateful against you in saying this. It is a political reality that Israel is the biggest mistake this world has possibly ever made.

No amount of bombing children will change that.

The-View-From-Ramot said...

We routinely hear that "you have no right to exist". Not entirely clear whether this means us Jews, us Israelis, the State of Israel or just our family. We never hear anything even close to this regarding anyone else: not regarding the myriad Islamic religious fanatics preaching a message of hatred and death to the "infidel" from pulpits all over the globe. Not regarding governments of such recently-invented countries as Syria, Saudi Arabia and North Korea whose undemocratically-elected leadership keeps one leg on the neck of its population while noisily preparing for war. And certainly not in relation to the racist Islamic purveyors of genocide in Darfur.
We could go on, but the part of your comment that we found the most persuasive was when you wrote: "You cannot possibly defend this." We think that's true. History, logic, facts and a sense of respect for the human rights of people different from yourself seem not to form part of your makeup.
This is why we can't defend our position to you or to the other "you have no right to exist - you're just one big mistake" crowd.
Like so many people - a disturbingly growing proportion of the family of mankind - you're ill-informed, not listening, not very interested. No doubt you will remain focused on the world's one real problem: the ongoing existence of us Jews, of us Israelis or of our family here in Jerusalem. And while you do, we'll keep speaking out as best we can against injustice, hypocrisy and dishonesty in the media.
We appreciate that you are sorry for your loss which leads us to wonder, with your high moral position, whether can we persuade you to make a small financial donation to the remarkably-efficient and effective Malki Foundation? It helps many hundreds of Palestinian, Israeli, Christian, Druze, Jewish and Moslem families who care at home for a seriously-disabled child. We started it, and run it as volunteers as a memorial to our murdered daughter. We'll be standing by.

Anonymous said...

Syria, Saudi Arabia and North Korea and Darfur.... these are the countries you choose to compare yours too? I might agree more with you than I thought.

Folks like you consider any crticism of Israel to be anti-Jew... it's NOT...

And as far as this: History, logic, facts and a sense of respect for the human rights of people different from yourself seem not to form part of your makeup.

That is most laughable... how could you possibly think that? Simply because I am not on your side?

To clear this up: YOU have a right to exist... ISRAEL does not. JEWS are beautiful people. Israel is an ugly country.

Sadly, your country will not last the way it is acting... brute force (with US money and arms) will not win... you are condemning others to a horrific future with your radicalism.

Even more sadly, your ill-fated and immoral struggle is pulling the rest of the world down with you.

The-View-From-Ramot said...

"Anonymous" might stop for a moment to consider that perhaps he/she has become so infected with prejudice and racism that his/her opinions are noxious in themselves. From bitter experience, we've learned that individuals who use expressions like "you have no right to exist" have placed themselves onto a moral plane that goes beyond logic, rationality or sense. Introspection and self-criticism tend not to be a big part of their outlook. Which other countries, other communities and other people are - in Anonymous' words - "pulling the rest of the world down" and "have no right to exist"? Just Israel? Just the Jews? If so, you're in good company. Here are the words of an acclaimed and accomplished European politician speaking to his parliament some time ago: "If the Israelis in the Middle East and abroad should succeed once more in plunging the peoples into a world war, then the consequence will be not the Zionization of the world and therewith a victory of the Israelis but on the contrary, the annihilation of the Israelis..." You might not recognize the quote. We changed some words like "the Jews" into "the Israelis". They're the words of a speech by Hitler in 1939. They stand for the very same proposition as Anonymous has just been making. You may or may not be offended by the comparison, but as the children of Holocaust survivors we recognize perhaps earlier than some other people the sounds of racist hatred. We also understand its consequences.

Don't bother responding here as "Anonymous" because our rule regarding people who express racist viewpoints is that you will not be published without your full name and verifiable email address.

Anonymous said...

Look, you can ban my comments all you want. But, I am not a racist. I have nothign against YOU as a human being. My beef is with yrou country and Israeli zealotry.

You are blinded by hatred... but in your shoes I may be too.

The-View-From-Ramot said...

Anonymous's comments are not being banned. He/she was invited to comply with the policy we described above and include a full name and a verifiable email address. If he/she wants to post messages which we consider racist and vulgar, and then hide behind anonymity, they are going to be rejected. The blogosphere is big, with plenty of sites that play by easier rules, so consider playing there.

Gharqad Tree said...

Anonymous, try taking a look at how many nation states were created after World War I, and again after World War II. These 'new' nation states were often carved out artificially on maps, and around the world there were huge (and often tragic) forced movements of populations. Of all the rearrangements of the twentieth century, there are only a few which have caused lasting problems, hatred, and continuing violence, (most notably in the Balkans. Yugoslavia did indeed cease to exist as a nation, but that was the result of internal fractures which exploded into violence; Yugoslavia was not judged by the outside world as being illegitimate).

There is only one country that is constantly singled-out as being illegitimate or invalid, and that is Israel. Why is Israel illegitimate but other countries created in much the same way in the twentieth century not illegitimate? Why do they have the 'right' to exist but Israel not? If you can demonstrate a logical and consistent approach, whereby countries created in the same way as Israel are ALL invalid, or whereby ANY and ALL countries who use armed force to defend their citizens against those who seek to kill them somehow 'lose' the right to exist, then perhaps we could listen to your views as being inspired by something more than racism. If you cannot, we are entitled to call you anti-Semitic. Those arab states who drove out (and into Israel) hundreds of thousands of native Jews following the failure of their wars of aggression against Israel - have THEY forfeited their right to exist? Has this racist ethnic-cleansing made them illegitimate as nations? No, thought not. Only Israel....

And you make the standard claim that Israel is pulling the rest of the world into violence and disorder. Yes, of course: the jihadists murdering Buddhist teachers in Thailand are angry at the continuing occupation of the West Bank; the jihadists murdering and bombing in Indonesia would calm down if only Israel would stop taking out Hamas rocket-launchers; the schoolchildren of Beslan would still be alive today if only Jews were content to live as submissive dhimmis in a muslim Palestine; the twin towers would still grace the skyline of New York if only all those 'innocent' Palestinians were not kept locked up by Zionists; the jihadists would not have blown up fifty people on buses and trains here in London if only the sons of apes and pigs had surrendered when the arab armies attacked them again and again; dozens of slaughtered Spanish civilians would be alive today had the Jews been content to go back to the Lithuanian or Ukrainian towns and villages that had helped the Germans massacre them a few decades ago. Sure, they should have gone back and asked politely if they could have their houses back from the people who had murdered their families.

Anonymous, there is a worldwide jihad underway. Israel is only one of its targets. Anyone who says that Israel is the cause of trouble in this world - while failing to condemn Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia - is a racist. For centuries, Jews here in Europe were blamed for anything that went wrong. Now they have a national state, and that state is being singled-out and blamed for the world's biggest problem. Coincidence? No, mindless racism.

It would be nice if you could see how closely your thought processes mirror medieval Christian anti-Semitism, but I doubt that you have either the openness, the historical knowledge, or the intellectual capacity to do so.