The incident in Qana today is the latest of a catalogue of events which communicates the obvious – there are no winners in war. The battle of spin has raged across the international community with the US, Israel and Tony Blair making use of one set of language and Iran and Hezbollah another, while hundreds of civilians of at least two nationalities and five religions are slaughtered. The talk, the delays, the endless talk, but no-one seems to genuinely care about the people, both Israeli and Lebanese, either losing their lives or livelihoods or in fear of doing so.
The part which is of most concern is that some nations are immune to international law while others are persecuted by it. The case of Iran is interesting – unlike North Korea, Iran has not broken any international laws. Iran also has not violated any other country’s sovereignty. It has cooperated with the IAEA. However, the international community insist on moving the goalposts as a means to control Iran’s activities within what the US and several European countries consider an acceptable set of limits which they have in effect unilaterally imposed on Iran. The end result has been an increasingly entrenched position from Iran, and a feeling that abiding by the rules is useless as they will not be rewarded for it.
Israel has on four occasions invaded other countries, and at present illegally occupies part of Syria (Golan Heights) as well as the Palestinian territories, in contravention of UN resolution 242. They continue to receive billions of dollars of aid from the US, and we now know that the US is supplying deadly munitions to them via a compliant UK administration (which may soon fall from internal outrage about its complicity in this affair).
UN resolution 1559 (2005), which Israel and the US make considerable use of in their rhetoric, was passed in a set of circumstances where Lebanon was trying to shake off a foreign power which had dominated its political life for the previous 30 years. UN resolution 1441 (2002) was creatively interpreted to allow the US to go to war. Yet UN resolution 242 (1967) calling on Israel to retreat to its borders has been left to dry, and any attempt to pass any resolution criticising Israel today is vetoed by the US under the archaic post-war system which allowed the five leading countries to hold veto powers.
Is a war crime a war crime or not? The Lebanese president was certainly in no doubt of that when he addressed the media today. But who gets prosecuted? While Saddam’s war crimes case is wrapping up in Baghdad, complete with seemingly biased judge, questionable process and certain verdict, one can be fairly sure that the international community, whose first responsibility should be to the citizens of the world always, will dismiss this as some kind of mistake or justify it in terms of Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel. Those too are crimes against civilians that should be proscuted, but they probably will be – my question is why two civilians can die and one receives justice and the other a kick in the guts by wealthy Western leaders and their media entourages.
It is my hope that the Qana incident (actually the second Qana incident – the last atrocity there is documented in a link from the BBC story) will be a catalyst to stop the spin and help the people who need it most. Commission of unpunishable war crimes only gives rise to helpless anger and a desire to avenge, which in turn is a detriment to Israel’s future security needs.
* Philippe Sands (international jurist) – “Lawless World” – documents both the rise of international law and its abuse in recent years.
* Viewpoint from the Arab world (26 Jul) – found on another blog.
* Declaration: The author believes that Israel has the right to exist and a need for secure and peaceful existence within its borders. The author is only 3 generations removed from European Jews, at least 13 of whom died in Treblinka and Dachau, and fears the consequences of excessive Israeli force to its future security and that of a future viable Palestinian state. The author is also from Northern Ireland and is more than used to pointless standoffs where innocents on both sides die and both armed sides have their hands covered in blood.