Let's
Talk
About
It
Oct  2009 a project of The Prometheus Foundation Inc. www.theprometheusfoundation.org
  .        
Israel. So much controversy.  So many frozen opinions.  Every opinion so predictable and formulaic. 
Let's put a few issues on the table and let's talk about them.  Really talk about them. 
Let's  forget what our opinions should be to remain in good standing on one side of the political spectrum or the other. 
If the other "side" makes sense on a particular issue, even though it may seem to conflict with our views on other issues, let's not be afraid to say so.
Let's talk about it.
Gaza City Gaza, War Crimes, Isaiah and Israel:
An Opportunity/Obligation

for the Jewish State?
Isaiah 42:6 I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness,
and will hold your hand and keep you.
And I will establish you as a covenant of the people, for a light unto the nations.

In light of prevailing attitudes about Israel, the Goldstone Report was as inevitable as were its contents.
And perhaps Israelís response, that is to essentially ignore it, was equally inevitable in light of those same prevailing attitudes.But the children of Israel are charged with being a light unto the nations. Perhaps the Goldstone Report has given the Jewish State the opportunity (obligation?) to be such a light on behalf of the Jewish People.

Here is what we are getting at in brief:

Many accuse Israel of committing war crimes during the Gaza incursion. Israel of course denies this, stating that it acted in accordance with, and even exceeded the requirements of, international law. Further it points out that, international law aside, it acted as well as, if not better than, leading nations have recently acted in similar circumstances.

There has never been a serious examination by the body of nations as to what constitutes a war crime in the context of modern urban warfare where a combatant chooses to embed itself within a civilian population.

This presents Israel with the opportunity to offer itself as a test case (or, as we prefer, as a light unto the nations).What we have in mind is the creation of a global panel. Such a panel-- whose membership should be approved by Israel -- could consider not only the allegations against Israel but also the question of how a combatant must act in the aforementioned context. We think that Israel should take advantage of this opportunity because it can, and therefore as the Jewish State should, act as a light unto the nations. We also think it makes good political sense. And we believe Israel in fact acted properly, just as it says.  But, as you will see below, we want to talk about it with you.

The panel we have in mind would be created along the following lines:

a. It must be acceptable to Israel in structure;

b. It must be comprised of individuals acceptable to Israel; and

c. Those individuals should include senior (active or retired) military officers, politicians, clergy, secular moral philosophers /scholars and representatives of the general public. In addition the members of the panel should come from a variety of nations and geo-political regions. In other words the panel should be broadly representative of the political, military, religious, secular and academic thinking of the peoples of the world.

The panel should be charged to render judgments as to:

a.  Whether Israel acted in a manner consistent with the manner in which other nations acted in similar circumstances. Such a fact, if it is established, cannot, of course, be determinative of the issue of whether war crimes were committed but it certainly should be a factor to be weighed by the panel in their deliberations. For that reason, evidence of how nations have acted in urban warfare situations such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia, East Timor, Kosovo, Lebanon (referring in this case to circumstances other than Israelís incursion in southern Lebanon), Tibet and other places should be permitted to be introduced.

b.  Whether Israel acted in accordance with presently existing international norms of warfare.

c.  Whether such norms are sufficiently clear as applied to urban warfare applications where a combatant has embedded itself within a civilian population so as to provide reasonable guidance to military and political leaders, and officers and enlisted personnel on the ground, when distinguishing permissible from impermissible acts;

d.  Whether new norms of warfare need to be developed specific to an urban setting where a combatant has chosen to embed itself within a civilian population.

So Letís Talk About It: Should such a process be advocated? Or is it simply naÔve to even hope that individuals can be found who are able to rise above (or judge fairly in spite of) the passions that sweep world-wide and divide people (and them) into pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian camps? Can a considered, reasonably objective, non-political judgment be rendered in light of such passions? If such a judgment, theoretically, can be rendered, can it be rendered by a panel constituted along the lines suggested above?

It seems clear to us that persons living in or born in the Mideast should be excluded from the panel. But should Jews, Arabs and Muslims not living or born in the Mideast be excluded or should they be included or should that fact be irrelevant in selecting panel participants?

Is it naÔve to think that Israel could be found guilty of committing war crimes yet also be admired for submitting itself to examination in order to serve as a light unto the nations? Would the potential political costs/risks simply be too great for any nation to agree to submit to such an exercise?

Letís Talk About It.   If you have any suggestions on improving, correcting, or adding to anything here, please send us an email at info@theprometheusfoundation.org .