Editor, the Gauntlet,
[Re: "Escalation not the answer," editorial, July 27, 2006]
I did not find your editorial entirely unreasonable, at least the part that calls for international intervention to help cease hostilities so that civilians in both Lebanon and Israel can get back to their normal lives. What troubles me, however, is that you seem to be hostage to a lot of misinformation about this conflict.
First, you talk about Israel's "determination to bomb the entire country." This is not true. There has been a lot of fighting in southern Lebanon where Hezbollah has its Maginot Line of fighters and weapons. But if you look at aerial photos, 95 per cent of Beirut has not been touched; restaurants, shops and offices are open. And even much of the Hezbollah stronghold of South Beirut has been little affected. You only see massive destruction because that is where the Hezbollah minders take western television crews.
You also completely neglect to mention the enormous damage in northern Israel where 1,000,000 people are living in bomb shelters and over 300,000 have fled their homes to locate in the south. That is the equivalent of 20 per cent of the population of Canada--Metro Toronto--displaced by warfare.
You are also mistaken about what proportionality means. Using your definition, the Allied D-Day invasion should have been limited to only the number of German troops and equipment waiting for them on the beaches of Normandy. I think you will admit this is silly reasoning. In international law, one important principle that was established in the Yugoslavian conflict is that the proportionality of response is not measured by a single act of aggression, but in regard to the overall threat. As stated by Rosalyn Higgins when she was President of the International Court of Justice, "proportionality cannot be in relation to any specific prior injury--it has to be in relation to the overall legitimate objective of ending the aggression."
I also dispute your contention that Israel is guilty of war crimes. The IDF may have made some bad mistakes, but its doctrine is to avoid civilian casualties. Hezbollah, on the other hand, appears to be in violation of Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which clearly states that the deliberate placing of military targets in the heart of civilian areas is a serious violation of humanitarian law and the ultimate responsibility lies with the belligerent placing innocent civilians at risk.
While you give a cursory nod in the direction of Hezbollah's terrorist tactics, you seem to excuse them because of the group's humanitarian efforts among the Shiite community in Lebanon. What you don't seem to understand is that Lebanon, ever since its independence in 1943, has been run entirely on confessional lines with each religious group providing services to its own population, so what Hezbollah does is not unique.
What makes Hezbollah unique is that it was entirely created by Iranian Revolutionary guards, that it brought a foreign ideology into Lebanon, and that it has emerged as one of the most heavily armed military forces in the entire Middle East. Hezbollah has over 10,000 missiles, sophisticated technology and tons of heavy military equipment. What other political party anywhere in the world is allowed to run a private army on this scale? And it was built up right under the noses of the national government of Lebanon and UNIFIL peacekeepers who have been there for 28 years.*
Jewish Free Press Newspaper, Calgary