Sunday, November 05, 2023

It is insulting (and possibly antisemitic) to keep reminding Israel about "international law" when Israel is following it perfectly.

All over the media, and with virtually all statements from politicians who claim that Israel has a right to defend itself, we hear - over and over - the caveat: "Israel must respect international law." (I'm not even discussin gthose who say Israel is violating international law.)

This is a blatant insult. Not only that, it is (mostly subconsciously) invoking antisemitic tropes.

The IDF has more layers of legal oversight than perhaps any nation on Earth. They are summarized here in a recent article (worth reading in full)  by Colonel John Merriam, a U.S. Army Judge Advocate:
[T]he IDF’s MAG Corps is an exceptionally competent group of advisors on the law of armed conflict that is organized to ensure IDF commanders have access to high-caliber legal advice in real time. Once planners identify and propose targets based on anticipated or actual missions and operational goals, lawyers from the International Law Department (ILD) review each. When hostilities break out, a group of additional LOAC experts, including both active duty and reserve officers, augments the ILD; this combined task-organized entity is known as the Operational Law Apparatus (OLA). The head of the ILD commands it. Members of the OLA determine whether the proposed target qualifies as a “military objective,” identify possible proportionality concerns, and provide input on other LOAC prohibitions, restrictions, and obligations.
... I am confident that the IDF has mainstream legal positions and is equipped with first-rate legal advisors
He's not the only US military law expert who has said this. Israel has not, and will not, violate the laws of armed conflict. Hell, Israelis are in the forefront of refining those very laws because of Israel's unique circumstances of having to fight terror groups who pretend to be civilians, use civilian vehicles, commandeer civilian ambulances and hide behind civilian objects. International law journals have lots of articles written by Israelis, and some of the top scholars of the laws of armed conflict are Israeli. 

If the top US military experts say that Israel's legal position is largely in line with that of the US itself, why do so many keep reminding Israel that it must adhere to international law standards? It's like telling your friend that she has to brush her teeth every day - the very request is insulting because it implies you don't think she does. 

But the repeated insistence that Israel adhere to international law also recalls antisemitic tropes - that Jews are slyly always looking to skirt the law themselves.

An early example comes from the 19th century, when Jews were routinely accused of setting fires to their own property in order to collect insurance.Some insurance companies mid-century refused to insure Jews altogether because of the perceived additional risk. But the upshot is that Jews were assumed, as a group, to be underhanded, clannish, untrustworthy and criminal. Jewish characteristics were described as "cunning, avaricious, pitiless." 

This repeated demand that Israel does something that is not explicitly and continually requested from any other in any other war  sounds uncomfortably like no one really trusts the Jews to be law-abiding. 

The other antisemitic corollary to the repeated demands of adherence to international law is that Jews are not trustworthy. Israel has insisted from the beginning that it always follows the laws of armed conflict, but no other country seems to really believe it. It is just another Jewish trick, it seems. In order to violate the principle of distinction, and to a large extent proportionality, means one must have the intent to hurt civilians. Without intent or gross negligence, there is no war crime. Israel cannot reveal its sources of intelligence and reporters cannot understand why so many civilians have to die in any attack, but they assume that Israel has no valid reason - meaning either Israeli intent to kill civilians or basic disregard for their lives. 

That means that they are assuming Israelis are liars. Which is definitely antisemitic.  And when you compare this to the media's eagerness to accept Hamas information about the war, it indicates a deep-seated prejudice, not "even-handedness."

Yes, alarming numbers of civilians are dying in Gaza. But Israel is doing everything humanly possible to minimize their deaths given the imperative to destroy Hamas - sending out millions of warnings, opening up humanitarian corridors, working to use the least lethal weapons possible. Outside the US, I'm not aware of any country that has worked harder in wartime to minimize civilian casualties, and Israel's historical record of civilian to combatant death ratio is lower than in any conflict in history in urban areas.   

Instead of assuming Israel is acting in good faith, the world chides Israel of not doing enough, out of malice or vengeance. This is a despicable lie, it is antisemitic, and it is an insult.

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