The Raq Rega E-Mail Project Issue 3

Part 1 The Claim That Israel's Targeting Those Planning and/or Participating in Terrorist Activities is Immoral and Illegal

Reacting to the murders of its civilian population Israel has targeted certain individuals responsible for the planning of and/or participating in those murders.  In response, those terrorists, and certain of those who support or sympathize with them, take the position that Israel’s targeting these individuals is illegal and immoral.

There is no doubt that Israel’s targeting policy is controversial: some think it wise, others foolish.  In this sense it is no different from virtually any policy of any government.  But those who do not have Israel’s best interests at heart are eager to exploit this controversy into a broader weapon against Israel by using disingenuous rhetoric to twist the argument from wise/foolish to legal/illegal and/or moral/immoral in order to try to make Israel look like a lawless, immoral state.  

The purpose of this Raq Rega is (1) to provide you with information to let you decide for yourself whether you believe that Israel is acting in an illegal or immoral manner and (2) to assure that those who feel targeting is unwise do not inadvertently become allied with those who would smear Israel by accusing it of illegal, immoral activity.

We will summarize the argument asserting Israel is acting immorally by taking excerpts from an article published on a pro-Palestinian web site, the Electric Intifada  (http://electronicintifada.net)  Electronic Intifada describes itself as:

a not-for-profit, independent publication committed to comprehensive public education on the question of Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the economic, political, legal, and human dimensions of Israel's 37-year occupation of Palestinian territories. EI provides a needed supplement to mainstream commercial media representations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . . . the Electronic Intifada team [is] comprised of the four co-founders of the project and other members whose specialist skills enhance different areas of our work. Founders: Ali Abunimah | Arjan El Fassed | Laurie King-Irani | Nigel Parry.

That website article begins as follows:

“Israel's current policy of assassination began under the premiership of Ehud Barak . . . On 4 July 2001, Israel's security cabinet voted to give the army almost complete freedom of action to kill anyone suspected of being involved in armed activity. This decision effectively widened the scope for extra-judicial execution. Israeli authorities had initially justified a policy of assassination on the grounds that the policy targeted only those suspects who were on their way to carry out shooting incidents or were preparing to lay a bomb. The shift announced after the security cabinet meeting effectively gave the green light to kill anyone on its list.”

Wisely, the article does not attempt to create a false distinction between those who are in the process of carrying out a murder and those who plan it.   In fact they are equally culpable from a moral and legal perspective. The article merely notes that the policy expanded from the former to the latter.  But it attempts, in the last sentence of the paragraph, to leave the impression that Israel is indiscriminately killing individuals.  That proposition is impossible to support with any facts and the article does not try to.  This is just another attempt to smear Israel with the ”big lie” which, if repeated often enough, can have an effect among the inattentive.  It is important to recognize rhetoric and to separate it from serious argument.  The article does claim, however that:

“From October 2000 to April 2003, Israel has killed more than 230 Palestinians, including 80 children, women and innocent bystanders, in assassination actions. Over 300 persons have been injured in these actions. . . . 

Israel's claims that it is not possible to arrest and try suspects, particularly where they are in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority is not backed by evidence. There have been instances in which arrests could have been made. Israeli occupying forces have arrested tens of thousands of Palestinians in frequent raids in refugee camps, towns and villages throughout the occupied Palestinian territories in the past two years. Sheikh Yassin was previously arrested in 1989. “

The argument here appears to be that arresting the terrorist leadership would cause fewer civilian casualties than caused by the policy of targeting.  Certainly in some cases it is possible to arrest certain terrorists, and in fact Israel does so.  But the leadership of the terrorists hides, with heavily armed followers, among an urban civilian population.  Imagine the consequences to Palestinian civilians if, for example, Israel were to enter Gaza City with enough soldiers and weapons to overcome the followers in order to arrest the leaders.  Is it credible that any policy other than that followed by Israel, that is the targeting, would result in anything other than massive civilian casualties?  Accordingly, in the “real” world can it be said, and do you believe, that targeting the leadership of terrorists is immoral given the alternatives?

And is it not ironic that the terrorist leadership’s decision to hide among civilians is implicitly based on their confidence that, unlike those whom they lead and encourage, Israel is loathe to harm civilians?  This, of course, is not to say that in individual cases Israeli actions are not subject to criticism.  But it is to say that the attempt to equate the circumstances in which Palestinian civilian casualties were incurred with those in which Israeli casualties were incurred is an affront to morality, logic and intelligence.

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