Blogs > HNN > An Open Letter to My Fellow HNN Blogger, Daniel Pipes

Jan 6, 2009 9:54 pm


An Open Letter to My Fellow HNN Blogger, Daniel Pipes



January 6, 2009

Dear Dr. Pipes,

After several years blogging “next” to you, as it were, on the History News Network, it was a pleasure to finally “meet up,” at least via Satellite, during our joint appearance on al-Jazeera International last night to discuss the situation in Gaza and how academics can effectively contribute to educating the public about the conflict and to helping the two sides move towards peace.

I was particularly pleased that you shared my abhorrence for Hamas's attacks on Israeli civilians and civilian infrastructure and institutions, whether in the form of suicide bombings, or more prominently today, with rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza into southern Israel. The latest Hamas rockets, which hit several Israeli schools, has no doubt angered and upset you as much as it has me. Whatever one's position on the legitimacy or legality of the occupation, no group has the right to indiscriminately attack civilians or civilian targets, and all such attacks are war crimes, as numerous international organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the US State Department have repeatedly declared.

At the same time, as an academic who has taught at many universities, I am sure you similarly share my outrage at the Israeli government's direct targeting of Palestinian universities and schools for bombing during this current round of fighting. Indeed, as you are no doubt aware, this has not just occurred during the present conflict, where numerous buildings of the Islamic University of Gaza and other schools (including but not limited to various class rooms, laboratories, and a women's dormitory) have been destroyed, with scores of students killed. You no doubt remember that Israel previously bombed the Islamic University on July 4, 2006. I would like to inform you that California Scholars for Academic Freedom, which published the statement condemning Israel's bombings of educational institutions that we discussed on the show (http://www.hnn.us/blogs/entries/59192.html), is now in the process of drafting a new statement that would cover Hamas's attacks on Israeli schools as well as more recent Israeli attacks, such as the attack on an UNRWA school this morning that killed at least thirty people.

More broadly, as you will certainly not deny, Israel has, by its own admission systematically denied or otherwise frustrated the ability of Palestinian students, from pre-schoolers to graduate students, to obtain an education. The methods it has deployed include blockading or otherwise effectively closing Palestinian campuses through curfews and more recently the “Separation Wall” that makes it almost impossible for tens if not hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to move freely across their territories, prohibiting Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza to travel to universities in the other territory, in Israel as well, and also prevented students from accepting grants and fellowships to study abroad.

As you have certainly heard, the last policy has most recently been demonstrated by the well-publicized denial of exit visas to Palestinians who'd won the prestigious Fulbright award to study and do research in the United States. (For a good collection of well-documented reports by the Israeli and international media, and Israeli and international NGOs, you can visit http://www.aaper.org/site/c.quIXL8MPJpE/b.3807139/). What makes these policies all the more sadly ironic is, as you pointed out during our discussion on al-Jazeera, that the Islamic University, along with many other Palestinian schools, was actually allowed to be founded by the Israeli occupation authorities during its forty-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

As I am confident you are aware, Israel's actions, which are systematic and long-standing in nature and thoroughly documented, are a violation of numerous international laws and treaties to which Israel is bound as a member of the international community of nations (and a UN member as well), regardless of whether it has officially ratified any specific treaty, law or covenant.

These include, but are not limited to, Article 56 of the IV Hague Convention of 1907 (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hague04.asp#art56), the First Additional Protocol of the Geneva Convention (http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/93.htm), the Fourth Geneva Convention (more specifically known as the “Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949” (http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/92.htm)), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a_cescr.htm), and the principles of Customary International Humanitarian Law (see http://www.icrc.org/web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/html/palestine-news-311208).

Together, this body of law clearly mandates that no party to a conflict and directly attack civilian targets, or use indiscriminate force that could reasonably be expected to result in the injury or death of civilians or the damaging or destruction of civilian institutions. Moreover, even when a civilian institution, such as a school or university, has been used for military purposes, it can not be attacked unless its destruction would lead to a clear military advantage on the field of battle, and/or that structure is being used for such a purpose at the time of attack.

I assume you will agree that Israel's attacks on the Islamic University of Gaza and other Palestinian educational institutions failed to meet this criteria, just as did Hamas's attacks on Israeli schools. The Israel attack on on an UNRWA school compound in the Jebaliyya camp, which just occurred as I wrote you this note, and killed over thirty people, is a perfect example of such violations of international law—Launching attacks against or from a school shielding civilians from a conflict are equally war crimes, and both sides must be held accountable for their actions here and in other cases where educational institutions have been involved in the conflict.

In the latest case, the attack on the school compound, Israel has claimed that Hamas was using it as a base for mortar attacks on Israeli soldiers. This might indeed be true, but as you are well aware, Israel has prohibited almost all journalists, Israeli and foreign, from entering the Gaza Strip to report on the conflict, just as it has barred international observers, human rights and other humanitarian officials from entering the strip since the conflict began. It is thus very difficult to verify this and similar claims. Indeed, I have just spoken with a senior UNRWA official on the scene, and he said that they cannot confirm this charge and are calling for a full and impartial investigation to determine the actual chain of events. I'm sure you'll support this call, more on which below.

As our discussion on al-Jazeera ended you expressed your belief that Israel's claims were far more reliable than Hamas's. As for me, having spent some time in war zones, I can attest from personal experience that one accepts the claims of governments or rebel/insurgent groups without supporting evidence at one's peril.

And since as academics we are trained to be skeptical of all claims that can't be supported by empirical evidence, I'm sure you will join me in demanding that Israel immediately allow journalists and international observers and monitors into Gaza.

After all, if Israel has nothing to hide, it can only help in presenting its case to the world to have as many witnesses to the war as possible to document its actions. Needless to say, Israel's claim that it is only trying to protect journalists, however laudable its intent may be, is unacceptable. Journalists and other observers well know the risks of their jobs, and war reporting has a long and honorable history—and sadly, many martyrs.

Let me quote my UNRWA contact, who explained that “under the Geneva conventions if there's a civilian institution that militants have taken over, anyone who wants to attack has to let civilians leave. Thus, if the IDF claim is true, the IDF should have contacted the UN and told them to get the civilians out of there because militants created a legitimate target. What the IDF was not allowed to do under international law is just go in and bomb indiscriminately.” Moreover, it's unclear to them who the attack was against and who was targeted or whom the so-called terrorists named by the IDF were and whether they were even legitimate targets. It could well be that their deaths constituted an extrajudicial execution, also a violation of international law. In order to get to the bottom of this, UNRWA will be calling for an impartial investigation, not just for the IDF, but, in my contact's words, “because if militants have taken over schools to do bad things, we want that to stop.”

I'll go further and propose here that you and I offer to help put together a non-partisan “Truth Commission” that would in the full light of day investigate not just the attack on the UNRWA school, but also the various claims by both sides as to who conclusively broke the truce between them. As someone who closely follows Israeli analyses of the conflict, you will no do doubt join me in calling attention to the December 31, 2008 Report of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center titled "Six Months of the Lull Arrangement Intelligence Report."

This report would seem to challenge the official Israeli claims, repeated without question by the mainstream American media, that it was "Hamas who broke the truce," as it explicitly states that after the June 19 truce "there was a marked reduction in the extent of attacks," that the truce was only "sporadically violated by... "rogue terrorist organizations... Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasfire," and that "the escalation and erosion of the lull arrangement, November 4 to the time of writing, December 17," was the result of the IDF carrying out "a military action close to the border" that killed 7 Hamas operatives allegedly building a tunnel (Report, p. 1, paragraph 4, available here as html and pdf: (http://www.rightsidenews.com/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=3157). Again, since there was no international monitoring or verification allowed, we have only Israel's side of the story, and as impartial scholars, we cannot accept any parties' story without confirmation. Agreed?

I'm sure between us we can come up with a suitably broad group of scholars, policy-makers, international legal experts, NGO officials and concerned citizens, who together would have the credibility to help Israelis, Palestinians, and the world community achieve some clarity about what has happened in Gaza, what sanctions the international community should impose on the two sides if any for conduct during the fighting, and most important, how to prevent this disaster from happening again.

Finally, I hope that you will join me in calling on President Bush and President-elect Obama to continue their condemnation of Hamas's attacks on Israel, and at the same time urge them both to hold Israel to the same standard as they are holding Hamas.

After all, there is no rational or legitimate reason why Israel—or any country or political power—should not be held to a looser legal and moral standard than its adversary. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, echoing our own Declaration of Independence, declares in its Article 1: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” There is no reason for Palestinian or Israeli lives to be considered less worthy of protection than the other.

Whether our individual views about how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can or should be resolved, I am confident you will agree that the best way to create an atmosphere in which honest and fruitful negotiations about the future of the Occupied Territories can take place is to hold all sides to the conflict—including the United States, which has provided Israel with the bulk of the weaponry used in this war—to the same standard of scrupulous adherence to international law.

I look forward to working with you to build a common voice of people of good-will to demand that the government of Israel and Hamas agree to an immediate cease-fire, to allow for the provision of medical and humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need of such care, and to agree to foreswear violence and other violations of international law as they move forward towards negotiating a viable final settlement to this century old conflict.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these issues.

Sincerely,

Mark LeVine




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More Comments:


wm arenstein - 10/16/2009

For a bit of balance, see who this LeVine really is. Go here:
http://frontpagemag.com/2009/10/14/collaborators-in-the-campus-war-against-israel-and-the-jews-mark-levine-%E2%80%93-by-steven-plaut/?dsq=20190017#comment-20190017


Frederick J. Simonelli - 1/17/2009

Mr. LaVine seems to make no distinction between an avowed terrorist organization, Hamas, that has never conceded the most fundamental right of a neighboring state, the right to exist, and a state, Israel, that has shown restraint in the face of deadly provocation over several years. The only indisputable assertion Mr. LaVine makes is that Israel's response to Hamas's provocation has been decisive and effective. No one, including most Israelis and their supporters worldwide, fails to mourn the casualties in Gaza, especially the children. But that human reaction to tragedy does not mean that Israel's military response to attacks upon its territory and civilian population is unjustified or unnecessary. The fundamental and unavoidable factor at the root of the current blood-letting is the unprovoked shelling by Hamas in Gaza against civilian populations in Israel. Had the duly elected "government" in Gaza refrained from firing explosive devices randomly into Israeli towns and villages, the current crisis would not exist. Does any reasonable person believe that Israel simply chose to bomb and then invade Gaza? Of course not. Israel chose to bomb and invade Gaza because it could not get the Gazans and their "government" to stop firing missiles into streets and schoolyards in Israel. The same folks who are now so outraged at the violence of Israel's response were sadly silent for the past 5 years as Israel called for the shelling to stop. Is there any responsible government on the face of the earth that would have taken that provocation for as long as Israel did without responding militarily? How would the US have reacted if Canada lobbed missiles into the streets of Seattle?


art eckstein - 1/13/2009

Thanks, Elliott.

Art


art eckstein - 1/12/2009

Of course, not one FACT from A.S., to counter the facts adduced by Mr. Green, or anyone else.

As usual.


Arnold Shcherban - 1/12/2009

Professor LeVine,
First of all thank you for challenging
prof. Pipes (and others in his camp) to apply the same standards to state terrorism as have been overwhelmingly (legally and ideologically) applied for decades to individual terrorists or terrorists groups.
Unfortunately, for a world at large, and for the side victimized the most in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict (and every unbiased and honest human being knows what side it is) the people whom you addressed your challenge to have no tangible desire to resolve this conflict based on major international laws, multiple UN resolutions and factual evidence, but just on their one-sided nationalistic, chovinistic, mythical, and often openly or overtly racist perception
of reality, in general, and the conflict in question, in particular.
I can assure you that either Prof. Pipes or any one else from the multitude of his unapologetic supporters will not pick up your challenge (as some of them never dared to accept similar challenges suggested by me) using every possible far-fetched, contra-evidential excuse
there is out there, or trumping up one
if there is no even pseudo-legitimate excuses left around.
If Western imperialism and its Zionist
heirs abandon the fierce double standards they traditionally use in evaluating themselves and others, they
will find themselves absolutely helpless and cataclysmically defeated in ideological sense. They won't allow that to happen
under any circumstances, since obvious ideological defeat might easily domino socio-economic and, consequently geo-strategic one.
Thus, the entire history of mainstream Western intellectual tradition (as the reflection of the dominance of religious and/or financial elites) has been perpertually against unbiased and honest historians, sociologists, and economists.
But don't despare and back up under continuous barage of Zionists' and other imperialists' missiles of lies and distortions and continue good work, my friend.
All honest and humane people of the world are with you.
Yours, A.S.


Arnold Shcherban - 1/12/2009

Professor LeVine,
First of all thank you for challenging
prof. Pipes (and others in his camp) to apply the same standards to state terrorism as have been overwhelmingly (legally and ideologically) applied for decades to individual terrorists or terrorists groups.
Unfortunately, for a world at large, and for the side victimized the most in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict (and every unbiased and honest human being knows what side it is) the people whom you addressed your challenge to have no tangible desire to resolve this conflict based on major international laws, multiple UN resolutions and factual evidence, but just on their one-sided nationalistic, chovinistic, mythical, and often openly or overtly racist perception
of reality, in general, and the conflict in question, in particular.
I can assure you that either Prof. Pipes or any one else from the multitude of his unapologetic supporters will not pick up your challenge (as some of them never dared to accept similar challenges suggested by me) using every possible far-fetched, contra-evidential excuse
there is out there, or trumping up one
if there is no even pseudo-legitimate excuses left around.
If Western imperialism and its Zionist
heirs abandon the fierce double standards they traditionally use in evaluating themselves and others, they
will find themselves absolutely helpless and cataclysmically defeated in ideological sense. They won't allow that to happen
under any circumstances, since obvious ideological defeat might easily domino socio-economic and, consequently geo-strategic one.
Thus, the entire history of mainstream Western intellectual tradition (as the reflection of the dominance of religious and/or financial elites) has been perpertually against unbiased and honest historians, sociologists, and economists.
But don't despare and back up under continuous barage of Zionists' and other imperialists' missiles of lies and distortions and continue good work, my friend.
All honest and humane people of the world are with you.
Yours, A.S.


Elliott Aron Green - 1/12/2009

Art E, I recall that you asked me several months ago if I could supply bibliog for what Karl Marx had to say about Islam. At that time, I recall, I named The Russian Menace to Europe, eds., B Hoselitz and P Blackstock. I wish to add to that Shlomo Avineri, ed., Karl Marx on Colonialism and Modernization (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books 1969). Marx in this book on p 54 [of pbk ed.] talks about the inadequacy of class analysis for understanding the Ottoman empire.


art eckstein - 1/11/2009

Jan. 12:

A Fatah official in Ramallah on Sunday launched a scathing attack on Hamas and described its leaders as "criminals."

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity, the Fatah official denounced Hamas as a "black and bloody militia" that was responsible for the "catastrophe" in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas--not Israel.


Peter Kovachev - 1/11/2009


You're welcome, Mr Pitts, and your initiatives towards civility is appreciated.


Arnold Shcherban - 1/11/2009

Professor LeVine,
First of all thank you for challenging
prof. Pipes (and others in his camp) to apply the same standards to state terrorism as have been overwhelmingly (legally and ideologically) applied for decades to individual terrorists or terrorists groups.
Unfortunately, for a world at large, and for the side victimized the most in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict (and every unbiased and honest human being knows what side it is) the people whom you addressed your challenge to have no tangible desire to resolve this conflict based on major international laws, multiple UN resolutions and factual evidence, but just on their one-sided nationalistic, chovinistic, mythical, and often openly or overtly racist perception
of reality, in general, and the conflict in question, in particular.
I can assure you that either Prof. Pipes or any one else from the multitude of his unapologetic supporters will not pick up your challenge (as some of them never dared to accept similar challenges suggested by me) using every possible far-fetched, contra-evidential excuse
there is out there, or trumping up one
if there is no even pseudo-legitimate excuses left around.
If Western imperialism and its Zionist
heirs abandon the fierce double standards they traditionally use in evaluating themselves and others, they
will find themselves absolutely helpless and cataclysmically defeated in ideological sense. They won't allow that to happen
under any circumstances, since obvious ideological defeat might easily domino socio-economic and, consequently geo-strategic one.
Thus, the entire history of mainstream Western intellectual tradition (as the reflection of the dominance of religious and/or financial elites) has been perpertually against unbiased and honest historians, sociologists, and economists.
But don't despare and back up under continuous barage of Zionists' and other imperialists' missiles of lies and distortions and continue good work, my friend.
All honest and humane people of the world are with you.
Yours, A.S.


Elliott Aron Green - 1/11/2009

Prof. LeVine, are you aware of the Hamas use of schools, hospitals, ambulances, mosques, etc for military purposes??
The petition that you mention by some California Scholars for Academic Freedom apparently denies or negates Israel's assertion that the Islamic University of Gaza was specifically used for producing rockets [Qassams] and for doing research on improving those rockets. And also served as a storage place for rockets and other weapons. If Israel is right, then the tears and handwringing over the bombing of those facilities is misplaced and unjustified.

Further, Israeli officials have charged that the Shifa Hospital in Gaza is now being used as a command center and refuge by Hamas leaders and commnders [who hide in bunkers deep under the hospital]. Are you aware, Prof LeVine, of the large secondary explosions that took place after Israel bombed weapons [inc. rocket] storage places in mosques, etc??? Do you think that Hamas is incapable of such perfidy, of such violation of the law of war??

Finally, what about the genocide incitement against Jews in the very charter of Hamas [especially Article 7]??


Elliott Aron Green - 1/11/2009

Arnold are you so unaware of what's going on that you don't know that your beloved Hamas is actually financed by govts, by states, that the Western NGOs that make propaganda for Hamas are usually financed by states, that much of the pro-Hamas Western media is controlled by states [ie, BBC], and that Hamas' policy is set to a great degree by Iran and Syria, two states??? So your term "state terrorism" is a term that could properly be applied to Hamas terrorism.

AS, you also seem to be deluded in your belief that Israel represents the West politically. If so, the European Union doesn't seem to recognize this, since the EU policy on Israel has been hostile for many years, since the 1970s. Look up the EU's Venice Declaration, inter alia. We may or may not represent some of the West's highest moral aspirations but politically, the West as a body in its majority has made it clear that it prefers the Arabs to us. Read Eurabia by Bat Ye'or for more info on this. Now, AS, if you are a true Marxist-Leninist, then you know that imperialism is the policy of finance capital. And finance capital happens to be very strong precisely in Arab states like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, etc. Can you, as a Marxist-Leninist, admit that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, et al., are imperialist by Lenin's definition? Moreover, they finance Hamas. So imperialists finance Hamas, n'est-ce pas?


Arnold Shcherban - 1/10/2009

Professor LeVine,
First of all thank you for challenging
prof. Pipes (and others in his camp) to apply the same standards to state terrorism as have been overwhelmingly (legally and ideologically) applied for decades to individual terrorists or terrorists groups.
Unfortunately, for a world at large, and for the side victimized the most in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict (and every unbiased and honest human being knows what side it is) the people whom you addressed your challenge to have no tangible desire to resolve this conflict based on major international laws, multiple UN resolutions and factual evidence, but just on their one-sided nationalistic, chovinistic, mythical, and often openly or overtly racist perception
of reality, in general, and the conflict in question, in particular.
I can assure you that either Prof. Pipes or any one else from the multitude of his unapologetic supporters will not pick up your challenge (as some of them never dared to accept similar challenges suggested by me) using every possible far-fetched, contra-evidential excuse
there is out there, or trumping up one
if there is no even pseudo-legitimate excuses left around.
If Western imperialism and its Zionist
heirs abandon the fierce double standards they traditionally use in evaluating themselves and others, they
will find themselves absolutely helpless and cataclysmically defeated in ideological sense. They won't allow that to happen
under any circumstances, since obvious ideological defeat might easily domino socio-economic and, consequently geo-strategic one.
Thus, the entire history of mainstream Western intellectual tradition (as the reflection of the dominance of religious and/or financial elites) has been perpertually against unbiased and honest historians, sociologists, and economists.
But don't despare and continue good work, my friend.
Yours, A.S.


Elliott Aron Green - 1/10/2009

There are also willing human shields. Such are especially "human rights" fakers, often from the UK, who willingly go to Baghdad to defend Saddam Hussein's military installations or similar types who come to Gaza to use their bodies to protect Hamas or [earlier] Fatah terrorists.

Now, a shield is a weapon. Someone who is deliberately a human shield could be called an unarmed combatant. He is still a combatant even if unarmed.


omar ibrahim baker - 1/10/2009

It might be too early to foretell the exact, detailed ,micro output from the ongoing war in Gaza although little doubt persists that for the time being the Israeli Army is bound to “win” the military confrontation for the huge disparity in quantity and diversity in armament, number of troops etc etc it enjoys over Hamas.
Historically that, despite and in a way because of the huge human sacrifices and suffering, would be only, in a historical perspective, a "micro", transient output for this phase of the confrontation .

THE Macro output is already in evidence:
1-The Gaza war has confirmed the output of the 2006 war with Hizb Allah , namely: Israel has lost its "deterrent" capability and aura despite its superior classical military capability!
Israel is no longer a frightening foe never to be tackled!
The legacy of 1967 is dead and buried.
2-Armed resistance to Israel is back with full public support
3-Israel's enemies, particularly the proponents of armed resistance, have an amazing ability to resurrect themselves, though in diverse and new forms, to rejuvenate and to amply man their ranks.
4-Popular resistance to and rejection of a Zionist Israel is publicly much more wide spread than earlier suspected and it encompasses a limitless will to sacrifice.


omar ibrahim baker - 1/10/2009

It might be too early to foretell the exact, detailed ,micro output from the ongoing war in Gaza although little doubt persists that for the time being the Israeli Army is bound to “win” the military confrontation for the huge disparity in quantity and diversity in armament, number of troops etc etc it enjoys over Hamas.
Historically that, despite and in a way because of the huge human sacrifices and suffering, would be only, in a historical perspective, a micro", transient output for this phase of the confrontation .

THE Macro output is already in evidence:
1-The Gaza war has confirmed the output of the 2006 war with Hizb Allah , namely: Israel has lost its "deterrent" capability and aura despite its superior classical military capability!
Israel is no longer a frightening foe never to be tackled!
The legacy of 1967 is dead and buried.
-Armed resistance to Israel is back with full public support
-Israel's enemies, particularly the proponents of armed resistance, have an amazing ability to resurrect themselves, though in diverse and new forms, to rejuvenate and to amply man their ranks.
-Popular resistance to and rejection of a Zionist Israel is publicly much more wide spread than earlier suspected and it encompasses a limitless will to sacrifice.


art eckstein - 1/10/2009

Obvious correction: The first sentence in paragraph 3 of my posting just above should read:

There is not the slightest reason NOT to believe that if Hamas desisted from and abandoned these attacks, Israel would immediately stop its own military response.


art eckstein - 1/9/2009

1, Civilan casualties are horrible, many images are heartbraeking

2. But it is Hamas who is responsible for every single one of them, since it provoked the war and since it encourages the use of Palestinian human shields behind which it shoots rockets at civilians.

Hamas glories in civilian deaths on both sides. google Fathi Hammad + "We use women and chidlren as human shields" and watch the video. Hammad is a major Hammas politician, and member of parliament.

3. And we should be careful in any case about what is being meant (esp. by the UN or Hamas) concerning "civilian" casualties. Here is an interesting article on that topic:

Definitions skew civilian casualties'
Jan. 8, 2009
Shelly Paz , THE JERUSALEM POST

The IDF insists that the great majority of Gazan casualties have been "gunmen." The Palestinians say that at least half are "civilians."

The consistent discrepancy between the reports from the two sides could stem from a disagreement over the definition of an active combatant.

On Thursday evening, the IDF estimated the death toll in Gaza had passed 700, of whom three quarters were said to have been combatants, 290 of them identified as known Hamas terrorists.

Palestinian officials put the death toll at an estimated 750 on Thursday night. Mutasem Awad, coordinator for the Palestine Red Crescent Society told The Jerusalem Post Thursday that though its casualty count was not final, it knew for certain of 200 children and 85 women among the dead.

When asked whether the Red Crescent Society was capable of telling the difference between innocent civilians and gunmen, he acknowledged this could be tricky.

"But militants usually wear uniforms and carry weapons, and we don't have [large] numbers [of dead] like this," Awad said. Israeli defense sources say many Hamas gunmen are fighting out of uniform, however.

Awad added that, "Many of the militants have died while they were not actively involved in the fighting. According to international law these people are considered civilians if they are not involved in actively fighting, but they were targeted anyway."

Florian Westphal, head of media relations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, based in Geneva, reported that "the records provided by 14 hospitals in the Gaza Strip to the ICRC [include] 3,070 wounded persons [who] were admitted to hospitals, of whom a third were children and women.

Avi Bell, a professor at Bar-Ilan University Law School and director of the Global Law Forum at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said the definition of an active combatant can be vague.

"A warrior is considered one whether he is carrying a weapon or not, if he is fighting as part of an organized force. There are certain situations in which a combatant is clearly out of the fighting, such as if he was injured or released," he said.

"The gaps in the numbers could be explained by the fact that they [the Palestinians] define a combatant narrowly," he said.

"Israel considers a civilian anyone who does not belong to the armed forces - unless they are actively involved in fighting. It also considers a combatant someone who is actively involved in planning the fighting, even if they are not armed. This concept is acceptable to most of the international community," he said.

4.

Here is what the political philosopher Michael Walzer wrote about what we are witnessing:

When Palestinian militants launch rocket attacks intentionally from within civilian Palestinian areas with the purpose of using civilian human shields as they intentionally launch attacks against Israeli civilians, they are themselves responsible--and no one else is--for the civilian deaths caused by Israeli counterfire.

5. Hamas glories in causing civilian casualties among Israelis because it is a genocidal religious-terrorist organization, and it is either indifferent to, or glories in, civilians deaths on the Palestinian side, caused by its intentional use of Palestinian human shields.

6. From the Associated Press, Dec. 27:

"Late on Saturday, thousands of Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons."


Let's see--contacting large numbers of enemy noncombatant logistical support-groups in advance to warn them of approaching danger.
How's THAT for "Israeli inhumanity," eh?







art eckstein - 1/9/2009

What a surprise to find that this is Butler's position. We've had him here before...

Butler:

As Adel Imam, the Egyptian actor who is the Arab world's most popular actor, said on Monday--if you fire thousands of rockets at the Israelis, you can hardly expect them to respond with flowers.
Hamas deploys rockets targetted on Israeli civilians from inside schools and hospitals, something which can only lead to unnecessary civilian deaths which happen to play well with the world media.

The Israelis tried for six years to stop this rocketing via diplomatic means. Hamas refused. The situation greatly worsened when Hams seized power in Gaza in a bloody coup in June 2007, which included throwing its Palestinian enemies, handcuffed, off of roof-tops--as well as intentionally assassinating their children on their way home from school.

There is not the slightest reason to believe that if Hamas desisted from and abandoned these attacks, Israel would immediately stop its own military response. Nor is there the slightest reason to believe that if Hamas stopped its attacks, the Israelis would do anything other than encourage Gaza to flourish. (It would be in Israel's interest--as one can see with the economic success of the West Bank in the past two years.)

But Hamas does not WANT Gaza to flourish (as the West Bank has, the past 2 years) because that might very well lead to the Palestinian people abandoning Hamas and its current devotion to the total destruction of Israel. Hamas therefore immiserates its own people and deliberately provokes Israel in a manner that give the Israelis no alternative but a military response.


art eckstein - 1/9/2009

Thanks, N.F.

You have now made things perfectly clear, with a cogent analysis.

best,

Art


james joseph butler - 1/9/2009

Rep. Darrell Issa displayed photos in Congress of IDF forces using human shields in Lebanon, 2006. The IDF used this tactic often enough in Israel particularly during the second Intifada that the Israeli Supreme Court finally outlawed it in 2005 after both B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch revealed how wide spread it had become. You can view a tape on YouTube of IDF forces using the tactic in 2007. The officer in charge in that case was disciplined.


When you box people into ever smaller quarters, starve them and ask them, "to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are defeated people." - Moshe Ya'alon, 2002 IDF chief of staff, do not be surprised when desperation the likes of, "Death has become an industry." a Hamas spokesman boasting of the eagerness of their suicide bombers, women and children included, is the outcome.

Gaza is a killing field and a madhouse and according to the U.N. and love thy neighbor Israel is the responsible party. One has to wonder how much longer it will take Israel to understand that it's 2009 and they can not win with violence anymore than Hamas can.


Rebecca Ellen Moulds - 1/9/2009

Thank you, N. Freidman, you have just about summed up what I said, much more articulately. It is very difficult to go into a war zone with completely objective views; most people already have formulated an opinion about who is "right" or "wrong" in a war, and only in rare instances are their minds changed by the circumstances that are witnessed. I have often wished to go somewhere as a private citizen, to report in a thoroughly objective way, i.e. the truth, about a situation, but knowing human nature, I'm sure I would lean heavily to one side rather than be neutral.


N. Friedman - 1/9/2009

Art,

There is an interesting article about this topic - a non-technical article but one which is, I think, largely correct on what it says about the laws of war - in, of all places, National Review.

Israel, like the US, is not a party to Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions - which, along with the tendentious interpretation given to it by some NGO's, is likely the basis for Professor LeVine's comments. Protocol I introduces notions that call for potential restraint where there would otherwise be no such obligation. As explained in the article:

Of Protocol I’s many failings, among the worst is its attempt to impose legal exactitude on proportionality and its companion concept, the “distinction” between military and civilian targets. In the original contemplation, these standards were left to the best judgment of commanders, mindful of the facts that the primary objective in war is victory and that some civilian casualties are unavoidable.

Yet, as military law experts David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey explain in “Leashing the Dogs of War” (an important 2003 article published in The National Interest), Protocol I demands that military forces contemplating operations ceaselessly consider alternatives with a view toward causing the least conceivable danger to civilians. Indeed, military forces must “take all feasible precautions” and otherwise “do everything feasible” to avoid incidental loss of civilian life. Consequently, the principal objective of warfare becomes preserving the lives of the enemy’s civilians. Military success is subordinated despite the fact that this could endanger one’s own civilians (over whose security war is often fought in the first place) and extend the war (thus placing enemy civilians in further danger anyway).


So, if an event were, in fact, being judged under laws that do not apply - i.e. if Protocol I were applicable when, in fact, it is not -, the fact that blame for deaths could fall on the party committing perfidy would not automatically mean the absence of an obligation to attempt to avoid harm to civilians while attacking fights committing perfidy (e.g. by hiding among civilians or using human shields, etc., etc).

So far as the laws that actually do apply in this conflict are concerned, Israel, so far as I know, has the right to attack armed forces that fire on it, its civilians or its army, etc., etc., even of those forces hide among civilians. Of course, common decency requires an effort not to kill civilians (e.g. as a means to flush out terrorists, which is a different matter and is likely a war crime). But, if attacks are directed at people who are fighters, the fact that civilians are killed violates no law of which I am aware. In fact, the violation is by those "fighters" who hide among civilians. And, it is a grievous violation of the law, as it should be.

The author of the article, which discusses, in the article, topics in addition to the law of war, makes your very point about Protocol I, namely it eviscerates the right to self-defense.

I note, lastly, that the author of the article makes the good point that the laws of war are, by and large, not wholly settled. On the other hand, if we subtract out Protocol I, they are settled enough to answer the questions you have asked.


art eckstein - 1/9/2009

NF, the issue is: once "human shields" are being used, say in a mosque or a school where munitions are being stored, though that is a violation of international law, is it ALSO a violation of international law (a) to attack such a place, and (b) to attack it w/o warning.

LeVine says the latter, that it is a violation of international law to attack a place such as a mosque and a school w/o warning any "human shields" even if it is clearly being used to store terrorist munitions. (a) Is that correct as international law now stands? and (b) if it IS correct, how in the world is the state under threat from terror supposed to defend itself under international law against those who do not obey international law in the first place?




N. Friedman - 1/9/2009

Art,

This is not even a close question, at least under the protocols of the war of law to which Israel and the US are bound.


art eckstein - 1/9/2009

Professor LeVine proposes that everyone be punished for violating international law and that all weapons deliveries be stopped.

This is incredibly naive. Hamas will not be punished by anyone, least of all the UN. Proof? Look at the UNSCR just passed--it doesn't even MENTION Hamas by name, though HAMAS broke the 6-months truce.

Hamas will violate the agreement and resupply itself with more and better weapons (as it always has) through the maze of tunnels it has built into Gaza precisely for that purpose. Meanwhile, no doubt very strict controls would be put on ISRAELI actions.

What does Mr. LeVine propose when this happens? Another UNSCR as the thousands of rockets fall into 1967 Israel?


Professor. LeVine, in the real world how do you propose to make Hamas abide by any "sanctions" when it has trained and trained and trained to subvert any "sanctions" on it?


art eckstein - 1/9/2009

Pardon me if I'm wrong, but I don't see where Professor LeVine has responded to Mr. Friedman (and indirectly to Professor Beres) on the points of international law and Hamas intentional and serious violations thereof.

If he does not, then he is admitted that Friedman and Beres are correct re use of human shields.


christopher noel pitts - 1/8/2009

Mr. Kovachev,

First, I thank you for your civil response and appreciate that there is at least some level of emotional involvement on both sides of this or any issue. As we work to respond to the other, we see that misconceptions of the others position often prevent us from truly hearing the other. In reading your response, I find particular points I disagree with but a much more approachable position, one that offers the opportunity for true and open dialogue. Some of my words were misleading and confusing. This is equally true of several of your responses as well as Mr. Levine's. My position of "taking both sides" may not make sense, especially in an environment in which there persists the notion that sides most be chosen, battle lines must be drawn. It is perfectly fair and responsible to research the origins of the crises and come to an understanding of the actions and philosophies that fueled it. I see a difference between this approach, one done through dialogue and open-mindedness, and the arguments of pundits, the relatively uniformed ideologues, and elitist intellectuals looking to win an argument. My heart goes out to the people of Israel. I am equally concerned with the plight of the Palestinian people. Both sides have done wrong and both deserve better. In my opinion, specifics only help us once certain generalities may be accepted. Like having civil dialogue.

My only expectation held when posting my first comment was that I would learn something from the experience regarding the more fundamental position of others. It has been some time since I commented on these boards and feel I have learned a lot from this exchange. Thank you for taking your time to respond.

Chris Pitts


Peter Kovachev - 1/8/2009

You flatter me, thanks. I have a almost mystical respect for academia, inspite of my unsuitability, but I'm quite happy putzing about as an amateur historian.

Re the web portrait, sorry for the confusion; I should really put in an "click to enter" button once I get around making a safe connection to my server. If you click on the pic of the young lady in the home page, it will take you to te About page and the links there lead to several galleries, where I describe which illustration was based on what and what medium I used to create it. If you email me from the site, I'll send you a link to an upcoming exhibit page on Gush Katif. I threw together the site in a hurry, but hope to get back to it and snazz it up more. It's all about time. As a medieval clock tower in Prague has it, "It's always later than you think."


N. Friedman - 1/8/2009

Professor,

The problem here is not that most good journalists do their best to be objective. The problem here is that many journalists neither try to be objective nor succeed at being objective.

So, one has to guess at what facts are real and at what facts are made up. I note that the issue with facts being made up is one that Israelis complain about over and over again. The example I can best think of concerned events at Jenin in 2002.

American papers tended to view allegations of a massacre rather skeptically. The British did the opposite and, eventually, had to eat their words, as, for example, the UK reporter Phil Reeves admitted in writing. Not only was there no massacre but the US military uses Israel's conduct of Jenin as a model of urban warfare conducted in a humane manner.

So, we have reporters who hype battles up into massacres.

Note: I am no fan of war. I think it a horrible thing. And, in a sense, any battle where people are killed is a massacre. But, in the sense understood by the warriors, there was nothing akin to a massacre in that instance.

And, the Jenin incident is hardly unusual. We have, at this point, a complete re-working of the term disproportionate - a term from the law of war. Quite a number of journalists speak of a disproportionate response, using the term as if they were speaking about the rules of law, rather than their own politics. Which is to say, comparing the numbers of people killed and the weapons used does not have anything to do with whether a military response is proportionate or disproportionate. Yet, read any UK paper. You would never know that.

So, we have advocates claiming to be objective journalists, spewing opinions - legal opinions in some cases - that merely reflect their taste about which side ought to win the battle.

Again, I think you have missed the problem.


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/8/2009

i'm not starting a think tank with pipes, he has his own well funded one already. i'm saying let's work together to establish a baseline of facts from which honest negotiations can begin.

as for citizen journalists, israel isn't letting them in either, and hasn't for a long time. and most good journalists are extremely objective--you may not like the facts they discover, but that doesn't mean they're not accurate.


Elliott Aron Green - 1/8/2009

There is a new book out on the international law regarding Judea-Samaria & Gaza. It was written by an attorney, Howard Grief, and is the product of years of study.

It was published by Mazo publishers in Jerusalem but I think it is available through Amazon, etc.


Elliott Aron Green - 1/8/2009

Besides the vile things that Hamas does to Israel and its own people in Gaza, there is the very significant matter of its charter or covenant. It is a text that incites murder of Jews. It endorses the Protocols of the Elders of Zion [once regarded as "right-wing"], called a "Warrant for Genocide" by Prof Norman Cohn. It makes several weird historical judgements. And its Article 7 concludes with a passage from a medieval Muslim fable, a hadith known in several versions in the Hadith literature, that describes how Muslims will kill Jews at the End of Days. The Jews will hide behind rocks and trees. The rocks and trees will cry out: O Muslim, a Jew is hiding behind me. Come kill him.
Hence, the Hamas charter is a text of genocidal incitement and the aims of Hamas are genocidal.
Your comments, Prof LeVine.


Sol S Shalit - 1/8/2009

If you didn't end up in academia, its obviously not for lack of intellectual acuity, of which you obviously have plenty. You can make an argument, LeVine does not know how to do it. He must have a lot of feelings, but to make an argument you need more than that. In any case, Academia is overrated (my economics Ph.D. notwithstanding...).

I like the web portrait. But not being an expert, I wonder if it's
based on an edited photograph -- forgive the ignorance.


Rebecca Ellen Moulds - 1/8/2009

Your ideas, Mr. LeVine, are very very honorable, but unfortunately, very naive. Firstly you would like Dr. Pipes to agree with you 100%, to join forces with you----however, his unique perspective on many Middle East issues may clash with yours and others, therefore this particular think tank may be finished before it starts. Secondly, the world is largely anti-Israel, anti-Jew, and pro-Palestinian, although not pro-Hamas. Although there are many Jews in this country and abroad, they don't care a fig for Israel---- they are not particularly interested in their own culture or religion. The question of whether or not journalists should be allowed into the thick of the war, is another matter altogether; rather than trained journalists, why not just regular citizens? Journalists are notoriously biased one way or the other, depending on who's bull is being gored. A non-journalist with neutral allegiances might be more honest in assessing a war. The idea of a "Truth Commission" is so far-fetched and elusive because everyone has their own opinion of what the truth is. I cannot imagine, though, that Israel would deliberately attack a school if there were students inside; rather, their intelligence is so superior that they probably knew without a doubt that schools have been taken over by militants attacking Israel. Of course Palestinian lives are just as precious as Israeli lives, but in any war there is always going to be civilian casualties; sadly, this cannot be avoided, but only victory can ever justify dying for a cause. I truly hate war, but sometimes it is necessary to bring to an end an enemy which threatens the very existence of a people. The world is an ugly and violent place, with little oases of calm and beauty here and there; Israel has never been one of those oases, but it strives for it, is trying to defend itself against the enemies it has always had. In theory your idea for a "Truth Commission" sounds logical, but in practice,impossible.


Peter Kovachev - 1/8/2009

Thank you Mr Shalit. Once upon a time I wanted to be a prof too, but bombed academically because I partied too much, at least according to my parents. Actually, having just heard some of LeVine's tunes online, I have to bite the bullet and admit that I rather like his stuff. History buffs are just artists at heart. My art escape is painting strange portraits: www.barzel.ca.


Charles Lee Geshekter - 1/8/2009

Thank for for your valuable and detailed points, Mr. Friedman and Mr. Kovachev.

Both of you provided reasonable, compelling and convincing rebuttals to the starry-eyed claims and tendentious assertions of LeVine.


Peter Kovachev - 1/8/2009

Thank you, Mr Jones.


Grant W Jones - 1/8/2009

Well said, Mr. Kovachev.


Grant W Jones - 1/8/2009

My proposal is victory. Hamas needs to be destroyed, along with all other groups that practice Jihad upon the West.

LeVine is a useful idiot, a tool of Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood/Iran. LeVine is also confusing the joke that is "international law" and Just War Theory. International law does not state that some nation's are allowed to fight the dirtiest of wars, while those they attack must use Marquis of Queensbury rules. If it does, then its a suicide pact, not a joke but an invitation to aggression.

Prof., sell your guitar and buy a moral compass. Maybe then you'll learn to distinguish between agressors and self-defense.


Sol S Shalit - 1/8/2009

Reading through the entire exchange of comments, I am impressed with the intellectual depth and rigor of Peter Kovachev’s retort to Mark LeVine’s shallow and pedestrian missives. Looks like Kovachev is the “professor” and LeVine a mere guitar player, second-rate at that, reportedly. I’m glad Daniel Pipes did not lower himself to get into this fray with LeVine, who is not in the same league.


Sol S Shalit - 1/8/2009

"…could have been avoided if Hamas had devoted its time, considerable ingenuity and effort to state building in Gaza rather than state destruction in Israel."

ALSO, if Hammas would have dug shelters to protect its civilian population, as Israel did, instead of (or in addition to) digging tunnels for weapon smuggling. More than anything else, this shows that Hammas’s military strategy is a terror strategy: to maximize Palestinian civilian casualties to hide behind, both physically and politically. Real callousness, cruelty and cowardice.


Peter Kovachev - 1/8/2009

Mr Singer, the arguments you make in the link you provide are interesting. The "Jordan-Palestine" is of course an old and apt notion and it's unfortunate that until recently it was left by the wayside. Jordan's claim to nationhood is weaker than Israel's and its claim to Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, as Jordan and its creators and temporary wards, the British, named it is beyond weak.

I'm concerned over two areas. The first being whether Jordan's occupation of Judea and Samaria has any validity and secondly, I'm not sure that your trust in the "international community" and suggestion that it take a heavy-handed approach in bringing parties to the negotiation table will work for anyone. Nevertheless, given that the "Palestinians" have repeatedly scuttled attempts at nationhood, first by Arafat and now by the Iranian lackeys, Hamas, the "no-state-solution" may be the best one there is.


Elliott Aron Green - 1/8/2009

I would like to add to N Friedman's list of Hamas violations of the law of war, the violation of holding an Israeli prisoner, Gilad Shalit, without allowing the Red Cross [ICRC] to have access to him. And that violation goes back to June 2006. Where has Prof LeVine been in the last 2 1/2 years that Shalit has been a captive??


Peter Kovachev - 1/8/2009

Mr Pitts, if there were a way for me to take away the apparent personal sting from my comment whilst maintaining my opinion on the matters, I would. Still, I regret offending you.

You continue to speak in generalities and I'm more interested in specifics, simply because generalities are of no use in this case. What do you mean by the victim becoming the attacker, the oppressed becoming the oppressor? Given that this is a forum on Israel and Gaza, Am I right in assumning that you are levelling the old charge that having been oppressed for a couple of millenia and having suffered expulsions, massacres and the Holocaust, the Jews, with their Jewish state have now become like their enemies? This is an old charge used by antisemites of all colours, including the latest mutation, the "anti-Zionists."

I'm not saying that you are an antisemite, but I do accuse you of carelessness, thoughtlessness and insensitivity; as a self-declared educator you have a responsibility to closely examine the origins and effects of ideas you accept as your own. No other people are expected to remain passive victims. In spite of the horrifying acts of oppression and revenge by almost all national groups caught up in conflicts, only the Jews stand accused of turning into oppressors.

Your reference to "finger-pointing" is also of no help. Establishing fault and responsibility are the beginnings of justice. In this case I, as well as most fair and informed observers can point to the Iran-Syria axis which has been arming Hezbollah in the North and Hamas in the South for several years and, as its become quite evident now, has been directing the activities of these proxy groups. The Muslim Gazans and the Lebanese have borne the brunt of Israel's rather feeble counter-actions, but they have also reaped benefits from Iranian bribery in the form of social assistance. You may disagree with this description, but do so with specifics, rather than generalities which only generate inuendos and slanderous charges.

As for your other concerns about the humanitarian dimension of conflict, that is a different topic. As you should know, the international community as it were, has systems of aid in place. That they are often misused and poorly managed is another question, one addressed again with specifics. Rather than bemoaning the state of the world, why not focus on the problems of aid delivery, such as theft by organized crime, governments and factions? In the Gaza scenario specifically, the aid Israel is allowing to flow into Gaza every day is currently being intercepted by Hamas who turns around and sells it to the Gazans at steep prices. Why are there no protests? If you want solutions to problems, you must study the problems objectively and devise realistic remedies.

You say that "if favoring division and elitism are features of being adult, then I will remain young." Well, I charge that it is you who are guilty of elitism when you essentially declare yourself to be above human life and strife, by "taking both sides," whatever that means, and by attempting to raise yourself above others through an abstract fiction of "global citizenship."




david singer - 1/8/2009

You might like to read and comment on my views concerning Pipes' proposal.

http://www.jordanispalestine.blogspot.com/

I cannot see the benefit of arguing who is to blame for us sinking in the quicksand. Surely we are better trying to find a way to get out.

Pipes - and John Bolton former US ambassador to the US who has also raised this solution this week - need to be taken seriously.


david singer - 1/8/2009

Shucks all this ranting and raving could have been avoided if Hamas had devoted its time, considerable ingenuity and effort to state building in Gaza rather than state destruction in Israel.


christopher noel pitts - 1/8/2009

This is when I flame back and further the name calling, right?

It is not my argument that we should not be concerned with sequence of events or who wronged whom. What I meant, specifically in this instance, is that repeated finger pointing and insults distract from the actual matter at hand. You mentioned, sir, the case of the attacker and victim. But what do we make of the victim in turn becoming the attacker? The oppressed becoming the oppressor? What responsibility do we have as global citizens in all this? I take both sides, Mr. Kovachev. Dante reserved the hottest level of hell for those that in a state of crises, chose to remain neutral. Put down others in the safety of your home or office over the internet if you will, but what are any of us doing to offer solutions or provide greatly need support to those in need? If favoring division and elitism are features of being adult, then I will remain young. I do appreciate your response and hope the discussion continues in a civil manner.


Jonathan Dresner - 1/7/2009

Pipes is uninterested in this proposal, at least judging by his latest comment.


Peter Kovachev - 1/7/2009

Mr Pitts, your "even Steven" approach of the kindly philosopher bemoaning the state of the world would be charming in a seven-year old, but a sign of ethical cowardice and intellectual laziness in an adult.

Do you "equally condemn" a criminal and his victim, an attacker and the attacked? Establishing who started what and who is responsible for what and devising means to settle conflict is a uniquely human virtue...something like language, you might say. Defense and revenge are not the same thing and there is place for both. When we throw a murderer in jail we do so as an act of defense, as an attempt to rehabilitate and yes, as an act of vengeance, or just retribution, if you will.

So, please, Mr Pitts, do grow up. Life is about taking sides, making decisions and sometime risking all. While you putter around in your safe little world keep in mind that there are men and women out there willing to risk their lives on your behalf. If you feel that's wrong, remove yourself from the protection of police forces, aircraft carriers and missile silos and measure how long you'll last. An egg-timer will be sufficient.


N. Friedman - 1/7/2009

Professor,

How does traveling give you expertise in the laws of war or, for that matter, on the details of the course of events between the Israelis and the Arabs?

Moreover, why all the talk about humanitarian law and law of war, two topics which your writing suggest you know very little? I do not see how legalizing - especially out of ignorance - helps settle the dispute. In fact, I think your argument is a nonsense argument, no better than the ones above that you criticize.


Peter Kovachev - 1/7/2009

Thank you for listing your proposals, Professor LeVine. Here is my response:

Re your "suspension of all non humanitarian aid, especially military aid to the combatants." The devil is in the definitions as well as details. What is non-humanitarian aid? Does Israel still have to supply electricity and resume providing jobs for Gaza Muslims? As for military aid, it's already suppodly suspended. And look what a great job the UN has been doing in southern Lebanon! Will you be there to issue fines for every missile snuck in?

Re your "prosecution of all combatants who take part in the commission of war crimes." That system is in place. At least one where hundreds of NGOs and openly pro-Arab international bodies will be flooding the legal venues with hyperbolic charges. What about Hamas? No one, including you, has called for prosecution of Hamas and its keeper, Iran. Dare you propose of a few charges against Hamas?

Re your "the imposition of a truce backed by the force of a SC resolution." Please. Given Hamas' record and current situation where while they are screaming for a cease fire, Hamas "operatives" continue to lob rockets at civilian centres, how many hours do you think such an imposition will last?

Re your: "what's your proposal?" I thought you'd never ask.

Israel needs to win this encounter decisively. It needs to destroy Hamas as a functioning terror group, destroy its weapons, kill or capture any and all "operative" and destroy as many weapons, combat infrastructures and tunnels as it can. It then needs to re-take and control key geographic areas and retreat from them only upon proof of good behaviour. Whether Israel's government is up to the task is questionable, and that's a political issue, but the IDF certainly has the will and the capacity to bring a decisive victory.

The U.S. needs to make it clear to Egypt that it is responsible for weapons moved through its territory and to follow-up with serious and painful reductions in the multi-billion dollar welfare package for Egypt. Professor Pipes' proposal to let Egypt take over and manage the nest of vipers that is Gaza is a very good one.

In an ideal world the UN will treat "Palestinians" as any other real or self-proclaimed refugee population and will apply censures fairly and equally to all parties. UNRWA, the only refugee agency dedicated to one people, needs to be disbanded and the "Palestinians" should receive the same treatment and resources as millions of others. Along with the aid should come the responsibility by international agencies to work directly with the recipients and not allow the money to be managed by make-believe "Palestinian governmnets." All aid activity, such as schooling, infrastructure grants and contracts, etc., should be transparent and regularly monitored, with meaningful penalties for violations.

How did I do?


Peter Kovachev - 1/7/2009

LOL! I do too, come to think of it, so I won't comment further.


Peter Kovachev - 1/7/2009

Thank you for your reply, Professor. Alas, your gleeful certainty over a questionable UNRWA claim and your pretense to be an authority on, if not a judge of, international law, are of little help here. Perhaps you discount the bodies in the compound which were found and NAMED by the IDF, the secondary explosions from stored munitions, or have missed reports by local witnessesses who witnessed gunmen fleeing and hiding in the crowd, but given your sources I'm not surprised.

In any event, you and I will not solve this "case" and I doubt Hamas and its fellow travellers will manage to exploit this incident to save Hamas' quivering bacon in time. I note that your reluctance to name your UNRWA official "on the ground" is shared by UNRWA as well, which prefers to issue statements through off-site or absentee UN bureaucrats. As for your thoughts on the media, it occured to me that they had plenty of time to get in through Egypt...had Egypt allowed them into Egypt, and Hamas into Gaza, that is. Maybe next time?


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/7/2009

i agree with your comments, however i'll point out international law, particularly international humanitarian law, exists precisely to protect human life, specifically those of non-combatants and civilians, and also soldiers as well.


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/7/2009

in fact i meant iraq, not iran, although i've been to both, but presently only one is a war zone...


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/7/2009

If you can't make a reasoned argument why not stop wasting everyone's time posting? if you want to critique something i've said and prove i don't know what i'm talking about, show me your argument. of the two of use, however, i'm wagering i'm the only one whose traveled all through gaza, the west bank, iran, pakistan and other war zones, and have almost been killed in terrorist attacks in israel. so if you want to call me a coward, state your reasons why. and why don't you tell us your expertise in any of these areas.


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/7/2009

i propose the same sanctions on everyone:

1. suspension of all non humanitarian aid, especially military aid to the combatants

2. prosecution of all combatants who take part in the commission of war crimes.

3. the imposition of a truce backed by the force of a SC resolution.

what's your proposal?


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/7/2009

well, now we can confirm that in fact there were absolutely NO hamas people in the compound. the two people who were killed were outside the compound. even if they were in the compound israel ABSOLUTELY CANNOT attack a civilian structure without warning and time to evacuate. there is no excuse for heat of battle. sorry. that's the law. israeli forces could have and should have not engaged--especially when they knew from the UN that refugees from locations that israeli soldiers expelled the civilian population earlier in the day were taking refuge.


christopher noel pitts - 1/7/2009

International law is of little concern to me in this instance. I equally condemn both groups for their flagrant disregard of human life. Life is sacred and precious (regardless of one's political or religious worldview). There is little effort here on these boards or in the region in crises. The arguments on these boards amounts to little more than oneupsmanship that is not only distracting from the issue at hand, but is quite frankly embarrassing and frustrating to me as a teacher, a fellow member of the academic community, and a global citizen. We should be banding together to unanimously condemn the actions taken by both sides and demand from our government and world officials to do the same.

If the best argument in support of Israel's actions include defense and revenge then we must truly reevaluate our judgments regarding the value of human life. As a community of intellectuals we are all capable of extending the respect required for civil discourse. The "They started it" approach is below us. People are being killed. Human compassion is needed. I thank you for reading this far and only wish you to consider my words as this, like any other issue involving the loss of human life, is a serious matter. Perhaps someday we can discuss and together actively pursue solutions. Thank you.

Chris Pitts


Serge Lelouche - 1/7/2009

Who gave this child a Ph.D? He shoots his mouth off about subjects he knows nothing about and the crawls into his hole when confronted.


Serge Lelouche - 1/7/2009

He actually really sucks at guitar.


N. Friedman - 1/7/2009

More, Professor LeVine, from Professor Beres. He wrote in an older article:

The Fourth Geneva Convention states unequivocally that it is perfidy to shield military targets from attack by moving them into densely populated areas or by purposely moving civilians near military targets. Indeed, it is generally agreed by legal scholars that such treachery represents an especially serious violation of the Law of War, a violation known as a "grave breach" of the Geneva Conventions.

Moreover,

The legal effect of perfidy is always an exemption for the attacker from the normally operative humanitarian rules on targets.

That is pretty straight forward. I also think that what Professor Beres has written is consistent with what I learned in law school.


N. Friedman - 1/7/2009

Oh, and by the way, Professor LeVine, such is not only my view. I see that Professor Beres, who is a professor of International law, agrees with me. See this.


N. Friedman - 1/7/2009

Professor LeVine,

I am a lawyer and I think, frankly, that you are wrong. The placing of combatants with civilians - in legalese: perfidy - is considered a "grave breach" of Article 147 of Geneva Convention IV. One cannot use civilians as human shields. If one does, the one so acting is responsible if such civilians are killed.


Peter Kovachev - 1/7/2009

"...perhaps you (i.e., Grant W Jones) think, as does nyc mayor bloomberg, that int'l law is a joke?" M. Levine

What's clear, Prof Levine, is that while perhaps Mr Jones may think international law, as it is, is a joke, as I do, it is you who certainly treats international law a cheap joke to be used only selectively, primarily against the Jewish state.

Your embarrasingly jujune proposals to Prof Pipes are an example. To form yet another group of "experts" (No doubt with you and your guitar at the lead)? And, to suggest "sanctions the international community should impose on the two sides IF ANY for conduct during the fighting" in order to "prevent this disaster from happening again"?

LOL! Where were you and your holy international law when Hamas was murdering its own people, arming itself to the teeth and lobbing rockets at Israel while hiding in residential areas? Preventing this disaster? I know, I know, you were busy protesting Israel's entry ban on Norman Finkelstein, a psychotic Holocaust denier and a Hezbolah sympathiser.

And where was your precious international law? Busy blustering whenever Israel turned off a lightbulb in Gaza.

And what sanctions ("if any") would you propose for Hamastan? They get their money from a compliant UN, the EU poltroons, genocidal Iran and the duplicious Saudis, and any attempt to reduce their unprecedented level of aid will, of course, be deemed "collective punishment"...under international law, of course.

Laws that are applied selectively and which are not justly and equally imposed on all parties are not laws; at best they are merely nice ideas or interesting notions to be discussed in class by sophomores, and in the case of Israel, they are corrupted tools of injustice and weapons for its multitude of enemies.


jk jk - 1/7/2009

How many UN officials/peacekeepers/operators are on the ground right now, what is the expected timeframe for any of these locations to be cleared if you are following international law?


Mark A. LeVine (UC Irvine History Professor) - 1/7/2009

you are 100% wrong that the use of mosques or other institutions by a group for military purposes makes them automatically a legitimate target. read the international laws on the issue. they have to be used AT THE TIME that the other side--ie israel--attacks them, there have to concerted efforts to remove civilians from the location before an attack can begin--as israel has admitted when it has dropped leaflets in northern gaza warning civilians out of their homes.

sorry, it is your argument that is the joke, mine is backed by international law. of course, perhaps you think, as does nyc mayor bloomberg, that int'l law is a joke?


Grant W Jones - 1/7/2009

Hamas uses schools, universities, and mosques as bases for attacks upon Israel. This makes them legitmate targets. Prof. Levine's "solution" is for Israel to give Hamas a cease-fire so they can regroup and rearm. As for innocent Palestinians, (those who do not support Hamas and Jihad) they are the victims of Hamas and Iran, not Israel.


Peter Kovachev - 1/7/2009

Professor Levine, would you care to name this "senior UNRWA official on the scene"? By the sounds of it, this official imagines him or herself as the last word on international law.

Did you burst out with laughter when this "senior official" suggested that in the heat of the battle, "the IDF should have contacted the UN and told them to get the civilians out of there because militants created a legitimate target"? This farcical suggestion begs the question as to why UNRWA ...a "Palestinian"-dedicated agency staffed and virtually run by the inmates... didn't attempt to get the civilians in the school out.

Knowing, as I'm sure (well, as I hope) you do, about how Hamas strictly controls journalists through its own "stringers" and good old intimidation, do you think it matters one bit whether they are there or at a hotel bar in Tel Aviv?


Peter Kovachev - 1/7/2009

Mr Shalit, Professor Levine is indeed a musician, the loud guitar kind, from what I understand. Apart from marketing himself as a cool dude, his specialty is in coming across as principled, idealistic and even-handed.


Sol S Shalit - 1/7/2009

I'd like to correct my earlier comment by deleting the last sentence. I mistook Mark LeVine for the Jazz pianist Mark Levine. But everything else in my comment still stands.


Sol S Shalit - 1/7/2009

Mr. Mark Levine, now LeVine, is hiding behind a thick fog of convoluted and obfuscating formalistic legalese. He contributes absolutely nothing to the discussion with Daniel Pipes because LeVine does not advance a single idea, only an abstract ideal driven by his ultra-left, anti-nationalist political agenda. He would do well to return to his area of expertise, Jazz.