Opinion » Columnists
Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Reply to Mr. Gil Eyal

Every few years Mr. Gil Eyal and I engage in these exchanges after an act of butchery perpetrated by Israel. Our two opinions are clearly marked, me attacking Israel for flouting international law and Mr. Gil Eyal defending Israel’s right to defend itself. The exchanges always end up in our respecting each other’s positions and our right to express our opinions freely in this Russian news organ, which like others, practises freedom of the press.

The trials and tribulations of the Jewish people throughout history have clearly marked the nation of Israel, formed in the aftermath of the collective horror during the Nazi holocaust. Only those who like me have visited the concentration camps can have any idea of the sheer madness, the unspeakable cruelty and the affront to the human condition meted out by these gates of Hell on fellow human beings.

The installation of Israel and Israelis inside Palestine was not easy, since the Palestinians suffered, losing their lands and their homes. The successive wars were wrong from a legal point of view but understandable from the viewpoint that the Palestinian people and their supporters were trying to defend their rights. But as time went on, more and more Palestinians came to accept Israel as a State within the original borders of the country drawn by the UNO.

And that is the law.

The collective history of Israel does not give it the right to commit acts of butchery, massacres and slaughter, such as those perpetrated in the Lebanon in the 1980s and such as the many massacres which have taken place since. Israel is supposed to be a state and behave like a state, not a terrorist organization. In targeting civilians with weaponry, war crimes are committed. Destroying houses, firing on ambulances, shooting at civilians are acts of terrorism and are not justifiable by claiming that HAMAS does this or Hezbollah does that.

If it is wrong for Hezbollah, two wrongs do not make a right.

Mr. Eyal likes to ask What is Israel supposed to do? As a State, there are many things it can do, such as use the United Nations Organization to force Hezbollah to disband in The Lebanon for instance, which would be far more effective than countering this movement by murdering 300 civilians, a third of whom are children.

In this way Israel plays into the hands of its enemies, losing the hearts and minds of the international community, losing the propaganda war and so long as Israel continues to sit on territories which do not belong to it, Israel continues to fuel the cause of the terrorists. Furthermore by perpetrating acts of terrorism Israel sinks to the same level and opens the door for ever increasing cycles of violence which will inevitably end in a massive incident which will destroy whole Israeli cities when someone somewhere develops a dirty bomb or uses chemical or biological weapons. It has not happened yet but this does not mean it will never happen. It almost certainly will.

As a lawyer and as the educated man he is, Mr. Eyal will agree with me that the law exists to be upheld, not flouted and for him this is fortunate because he makes a living out of it. Therefore Israel must comply with international law and pull out of the occupied territories just as the terrorist organizations which combat Israel today must accept its right to exist in peace.

I seriously believe that most Israelis and most Palestinians indeed want to live side by side like brothers and that these two peoples can learn so much from one another.

But what is necessary is to follow due process inside the law and with level-headedness, not trying to defend the indefensible, which Mr. Eyal has tried to do in his two articles here.

Neither Israel nor the USA have the right to attack sovereign states outside the auspices of the UN Charter, under which any Resolution must be backed up by further resolutions in the event of conflict. The USA was wrong to attack Iraq when it did not manage to get the second resolution, and if such a resolution was unnecessary then why did it spend so much energy behind the scenes trying to get the support for it in the UNSC? In the event neither did Iraq have WMD and neither did it pose an immediate threat to anyone.

The war was based upon lies and shocking acts of butchery were perpetrated by the American armed forces, targeting civilian infrastructures, constituting war crimes. Let us call a spade a spade. However noxious the Saddam Hussein regime was, there is something called international law and the United Nations is the proper forum for legal debate and crisis management – that is why the international community signed its Charter.

Therefore there is no defence possible for the Bush regime’s act of greed. It should never have happened, the people of Iraq are far worse off now than they were under the previous regime as they themselves admit and anyway how long was Saddam Hussein going to last?

The fact is that if Saddam Hussein signed 148 death warrants, George Bush signed 152. If President Saddam Hussein committed massacres, so has President Bush. And both men broke international law.

You cannot have an international community which picks and chooses which laws each country decides to respect and than claim we have a state of law any more than we can have a society based upon anarchy. If the rules are made to be followed, they should be followed by all.

What Mr. Eyal is claiming is basically two things: it is OK for Israel and the USA to do whatever they like because they hold the monopoly of right and reason and it is their prerogative to command and be obeyed. The second precept that he follows, like so many other Israelis and Americans, is the tunneled-vision black-and-white notion that if you complain about Israel, then you support the terrorists, if you complain about the Americans in Iraq, then you support the Resistance.

There is a third way, the way of reason and logic. One supports neither side which perpetrates acts of violence, breaking the law. If that goes for Saddam Hussein, it also goes for the Americans and the Resistance. If that goes for HAMAS and Hezbollah it also goes for Israel.

It is as crystal clear as that, Mr. Eyal. See the face of that child in the photo Mr. Eyal?



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