In an opinion article in the Politico, Arsen Ostrovsky, a human rights attorney and CEO of The International Legal Forum, explains why the actions of Israel since the October 7 attack of Hamas on the country are proportionate.
So long as Hamas uses civilian locations for the purpose of planning, carrying out and executing attacks against Israel, they become legitimate military targets.
Before the bodies of the 40 Jewish babies massacred by Hamas were even buried, many self-proclaimed experts were already charging Israel with acting disproportionately in response to the attacks on October 7.
But what is a “proportionate” response to dozens of infants being shot, burnt and decapitated? Would those preaching “proportionality” expect Israel to go into Gaza and massacre 40 Palestinian babies in return? Of course not.
The death toll in Israel of at least 1,400 from this massacre is the single largest number of Jews killed in one day since the Holocaust. And I saw this carnage with my own eyes, standing in Kibbutz Be’eri in southern Israel, where homes were scorched, bullets were strewn, and the stench of death was unmistakable.
Yet, the pesky Jewish state, which faces such a heinous and savage enemy, remains the only democracy in the world that’s condemned for acting “disproportionately” each time it refuses to surrender and allow its citizens to be slaughtered.
There is, perhaps, no principle in international law that’s as reflexively thrown around to castigate Israel and charge it with war crimes than that of “proportionality.”
But we need to throw away the notion that proportionality is measured by some kind of perverse equivalence in civilian deaths. It is not.
Under International Humanitarian Law, also referred to as the Laws of War, the doctrine of proportionality requires that in the event that there should be any loss of civilian life, it mustn’t exceed the potential military advantage to be gained from such a strike or action.
In relation to Israel’s current military operation, the goal is clear and stated — eliminating Hamas, a genocidal terrorist group, following the unprecedented and wanton massacre of civilians. To state the obvious, saving the lives of millions of your citizens from an attempted genocide is an entirely legitimate, legal and just military purpose by any measurement.
And in the fog of war against such an implacable enemy, as regrettable as it is, the loss of civilian life is almost always inevitable. However, in this case, the fault lies entirely with Hamas. As British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak noted, “The terrorists murder Israeli children, then run and hide behind Palestinian children.”
Hamas even sought to block the evacuation of Palestinians in Gaza by setting up roadblocks and confiscating car keys. This is how perverse it is, and the West’s failure to call the organisation out only emboldens it further.
Notwithstanding, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have been going to extraordinary lengths, not seen in the history of modern warfare, to avoid civilian casualties, even at risk to their own soldiers.
For example, the IDF has been warning civilians in Gaza to evacuate before a pending attack. The United States didn’t do so before taking out ISIS, nor did the United Kingdom during the war in Afghanistan. The IDF isn’t required to provide such notice under international law either — but it does so nonetheless, to avoid and minimise civilian casualties.
To state the obvious, saving the lives of millions of your citizens from an attempted genocide is an entirely legitimate, legal and just military purpose by any measurement.
Meanwhile, Hamas embeds itself in civilian areas, firing rockets from homes and people’s kitchens, turning hospitals into storage depots for weapons. And so long as Hamas uses civilian locations for the purpose of planning, carrying out and executing attacks against Israel, it becomes a legitimate military target under customary international law, and the responsibility for any loss of life rests solely with Hamas.
In short, what Hamas is carrying out is a triple war crime: using civilians in Gaza as human shields to attack civilians in Israel while seeking the destruction of the Jewish state.
In his first speech to the House of Commons as prime minister in 1940, Winston Churchill was asked what Britain’s policy was against the Nazis. “I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival,” Churchill proclaimed.
Although the perpetrators may have changed, Hamas’ monstrously savage agenda is no different to the Nazis or modern-day ISIS.
Israel, therefore, is acting entirely proportionately and within the law against an enemy that seeks no less than its full destruction.
Original article: Politico
Photo credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90