Friday, May 18, 2018

B'Tselem and the Distortion of International Law in Gaza - by Johnny Green

B’Tselem and their ilk are attempting to twist international law without conceding the complexity of the applicable rules and while preventing productive debate. In this instance, B’Tselem has demonstrated the degree of fanaticism and dogmatism in which they are immersed.

Johnny Green..
17 May '18..

The Israeli organization B’Tselem recently called for Israeli soldiers to disobey orders on the Gaza frontier and refrain from using live fire against attempted infiltration and terrorist acts. A formal “opinion” published by the Israel Democracy Institute lends support to B’Tselem. Another organization filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court, alleging that the IDF rules of engagement permitting the use of live fire on the Gaza border are illegal under international law.

These three examples and others like them all share a similar premise: international law permits the use of lethal force only as a response to direct mortal peril or against armed targets. This categorical claim represents a radical and distorted interpretation of international law that directly contradicts basic concepts in the laws of armed conflict.

International law is of course ambiguous and complex, yet certain principles are easy enough to define. So what does the law actually say?

The law distinguishes between civilians and combatants. While enemy combatants can be targeted with very few limitations, civilians are protected by an array of provisions and restrictions. However, the law withdraws these protections and in effect defines a civilian as a “combatant” for all intents and purposes when a civilian engages in “direct participation in hostilities.”

This is a rather generic and obscure term, but its outcome is clear: a civilian who directly participates in hostilities loses their legal protection, becomes an enemy “combatant,” and thus serves as a legitimate military target.

Luckily, the International Committee of the Red Cross published a useful guide summarizing many aspects of this critical distinction with the catchy title of “Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities under International Humanitarian Law.” One would not suspect the Red Cross to be a lenient interpreter of the laws of war or easily relinquishing civilian wartime protections.

(Continue to Full Column)

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