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The Phony War Crimes Accusation

The Phony War Crimes Accusation

The double standard against Israel.


Every time Israel seeks to defend its civilians against terrorist attacks, it is accused of war crimes by various United Nations agencies, hard left academics and some in the media. It is a totally phony charge concocted as part of Hamas' strategy -- supported by many on the hard left -- to delegitimate and demonize the Jewish state. Israel is the only democracy in the world ever accused of war crimes when it fights a defensive war to protect its civilians.

Israel has killed far fewer civilians than any other country in the world that has faced comparable threats.

This is remarkable, especially in light of the fact that Israel has killed far fewer civilians than any other country in the world that has faced comparable threats. In the most recent war in Gaza fewer than a thousand civilians -- even by Hamas' skewed count -- have been killed. This, despite the fact that no one can now deny that Hamas had employed a deliberate policy of using children, schools, mosques, apartment buildings and other civilian areas as shields from behind which to launch its deadly anti-personnel rockets. The Israeli Air Force has produced unchallengeable video evidence of this Hamas war crime.

Just to take one comparison, consider the recent wars waged by Russia against Chechnya. In these wars Russian troops have killed tens of thousands of Chechnyan civilians, some of them willfully, at close range and in cold blood. Yet those radical academics who scream bloody murder against Israel (particularly in England) have never called for war crime tribunals to be convened against Russia. Nor have they called for war crime charges to be filed against any other of the many countries that routinely kill civilians, not in an effort to stop enemy terrorists, but just because it is part of their policy.

Nor did we see the Nuremburg-type rallies that were directed against Israel when hundreds of thousands of civilians were being murdered in Rwanda, in Darfur and in other parts of the world. These bigoted hate-fests are reserved for Israel.

The accusation of war crimes is nothing more than a tactic selectively invoked by Israel's enemies. Those who cry "war crime" against Israel don't generally care about war crimes, as such, indeed they often support them when engaged in by countries they like. What these people care about, and all they seem to care about, is Israel. Whatever Israel does is wrong regardless of the fact that so many other countries do worse.

When I raised this concern in a recent debate, my opponent accused me of changing the subject. He said we are talking about Israel now, not Chechnya or Darfur. This reminded me of a famous exchange between Harvard's racist president, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, and the great American judge Leonard Hand. Lowell announced that he wanted to reduce the number of Jews at Harvard, because, "Jews cheat." Judge Hand replied that "Christians also cheat." Lowell responded, "You're changing the subject. We are talking about Jews."

If Israel were ever to be charged with "war crimes," that would mark the end of international human rights law as a neutral arbitrator of conduct.

Well, you can't just talk about Jews. Nor can you just talk about the Jewish state. Any discussion of war crimes must be comparative and contextual. If Russia did not commit war crimes when its soldiers massacred tens of thousands of Chechnyans (not even in a defensive war) then on what basis could Israel be accused of accidentally killing a far fewer number of human shields in an effort to protect its civilians? What are the standards? Why are they not being applied equally or selectively? Can human rights endure in the face of such unequal and selective application? These are the questions the international community should be debating, not whether Israel, and Israel alone, violated the norms of that vaguest of notions called "international law" or the "law of war."

If Israel, and Israel alone among democracies fighting defensive wars, were ever to be charged with "war crimes," that would mark the end of international human rights law as a neutral arbitrator of conduct. Any international tribunal that were to charge Israel, having not charged the many nations that have done far worse, will lose any remaining legitimacy among fair-minded people of good will,

If the laws of war in particular, and international human rights in general, are to endure, they must be applied to nations in order of the seriousness of the violations, not in order of the political unpopularity of the nations. If the law of war were applied in this manner, Israel would be among the last, and certainly not the first, charged.

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post

January 24, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 51

(51) Tal Ben-Yaacov, February 6, 2009 12:09 PM

we need more

Dershowiz is consistantly the voice of reason and it makes me feel less alone in the world when I hear his fiery defense of Israel. We need more articulate and smart people like him to write what needs to be written and speak what needs to be heard. We need to make support of Israel a liberal cause again. It just doesn't make sense that Israel hatred Is almost exclusively reserved for those who supposedly want to to help the helpless and lift up the downtrodden. Where did the left go wrong? This new resurgence of antisemitism only reinforces the need for an autonomous Jewish state so that we will never again be forced to be temporary guests in an unwelcoming country.

(50) Elaine, February 2, 2009 3:48 PM

publicize this type of article more

A. Dershowitz and Mayor Bloomberg are so articulate. Many Jews pass these speeches and articles amongst themselves. We are proud to read and/or hear them. But we are not the ones who need to be made aware of these facts. We have to find more ways to present this knowledge to young people all over the world who are usually exposed to only the Islamic extremist/terrorist propaganda. If only a few of them realize that there might be another point of view, it will be worth the work, "trouble", and cost of such publicity. Please do not let our various Times newspapers get away with their slanted toward the benefit of jihadists and terrorists.

(49) GA, February 1, 2009 10:41 PM

We need a new strategy . .

. . . against international antizionism/antisemitism, although I find the work from world very good (I am not jewish).- I experied that much people and I learned much about ISRAELs history (most forget the important decades before !), about jihad and islamisation and the rotten manner manner and methods, in how kind western journalists and politicans "help" ISRAEL and "defend" the western civilisation. Horribly, I must recognize, that we in religious lessons, in civics and antifacist or socialist's instructions, we did not learn the half, to defend the free word, to learn from the german ( and japan) catastrophy, why and what sticks behind the fact, systematicly having done so much evil to others, espacially to the jews and what could be the hindrance, to get a real friend of ISRAEL. In my german family, I heared no single word against ISRAEL and the jews, but going to the leftist, not especially the pro-soviet, changes me to an anti-ISRAELi in short time in 1971/72, wishing that the arabs would win in 1973 as if the revolutioneers in Chile! ...From my view here I see strategical points to treat, discover and change: -- the german-arab and nazi-islam connection/colaboration , the soviet-, KGB- and russian-islamists connection & colaboration, - both trying to make a weapon against the west out of islam antisemitism & antizionism,- although Karl Marx speaks clear about islam against , -- discover the brutal and cultural power policy sence of the Holocaust, instaed of "irrationalism" or declaring nothing and prepositioning young people to a victim of left or right antizionist ideologists, -- better understanding about what the matter with israeli society is, for expl. it (shows as if ) does not want to defend itself with arguments telling the world jew's struggle before 1948, about the nazi- and soviet-arab unitiy against jews and the friendly exception of communists (tactical ? but important) support between 1947 and 50, or,- evtl. at last, not want to disclose and criticise the islam antisemitism, with intergated european world-conspiracy believe as the core, basis, main motive and dynamo machine of polit-religeous fanatism and dijhadism, without that almoust no terrorism would happen and no Hamas or Fatah would be founded.)** -- related on those strategical consciousness points and 2ndary on modern detections about biophysical connections with develope and handling of hate and destructive energy, and 3rdly on the opportunities of internet, we should bread, test and create special efficient methods, working together for that powerful, without beeing a powerful one. Bye ! Write -> **( so for expl. I cannot understand why yesterday Simon Perez begged for pardon to the islamist ERDOGAN , or what the matter is with papers like HA'ARETZ, who gives Antiisraelis and history revisionist antizionists a propaganda plattform, and before one year in a international journalists conference, the owner of HA'ARETZ condems islam carricutarists or their defenders or publishers as rassists, their islam criticism as "a kind of " antisemitism ?! That is a big, a strategicak problem, like terrorism itself, the military / IDF /Zahal on continuance is not able save all positions, what israeli brains and consciouness has lost,- a huge gate for the enemy !! Since years I observe, german antizionist journlists and radio makers using this gate and unconsciusness jewish withnesses against ISRAEL.

(48) Jun Lacson, January 30, 2009 6:09 PM

I support Israel in all their actions against the muslim's terrorists.Israel will previal against all their enemies because our Almighty God is with them and they are His people.

(47) Joseph, January 30, 2009 3:31 PM


This article is clear and clean.I wander what international institutions were doing in world war II, when 6 millions jews have been assassinated by the NAZIST regime? That was Genocide,not self defense of Israel against terrorist groupHamas.

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