Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reading the Goldstone Report

From James Traub, "Fearful Asymmetry: Reading the Goldstone Report":
Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, has asserted that the report “bestows virtual immunity on terrorists and ties the hands of any nation to protect itself.” The U.S.-led war on terror, with its vast tally of civilian deaths, Oren wrote, could never pass muster before such an inquiry. Ehud Barak, Israel’s minister of defense, declared that democracies “must not allow themselves to be handcuffed by the abusive application of lofty ideals.” What, after all, was Israel to do against an enemy that intentionally based its fighters and rockets in the midst of civilians, daring the IDF to produce the kind of collateral damage that would provoke international opprobrium? The argument comes down to this: If international humanitarian law really does criminalize Israel’s behavior in Gaza, then abiding by it is a suicide pact for countries, like Israel, confronted with terrorism. And if that’s the case, then states must choose either surrendering to their enemies or enduring global censure—or international humanitarian law must change.