Shurat HaDin Conference on Laws of War, Day One

Tuvia Brodie,

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Tuvia Brodie
Tuvia Brodie has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh under the name Philip Brodie. He has worked for the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College and American Express. He and his wife made aliyah in 2010. All of his children have followed. He believes in Israel's right to exist. He believes that the words of Tanach (the Jewish Bible) are meant for us. His blog address is http://tuviainil.blogspot.com He usually publishes 3-4 times a week on his blog and 1-3 times at Arutz Sheva. Please check the blog regularly for new posts.

Today (Monday, June 20, 2016) and tomorrow (Tuesday, June 21st) belong to the Israeli NGO, Shurat Hadin.  It’s holding its second annual “Towards a new Law of War Conference”. For these two days, it has brought to the Jerusalem Dan Hotel high-quality legal, military and political experts to discuss Israel and international law. Conference topics for this year include, among other discussions,  the International Criminal Court (ICC), cyberwar, the financial battle against terror, the sovereignty status of Judea-Samaria-Gaza, incitement on Facebook and Social Media, and legal, humanitarian and military issues surrounding ISIS and Syria.

Shurat Hadin works to make terrorism pay a price for its terror. It sues terror entities in court. It wins.

Since its founding by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, esq in 2003 (Tsivya Fox, “How is One Israeli Law Center Bankrupting Terrorism?”, breakingisraelnews, May 16, 2016), Shurat Hadin has won more than 2 billion US dollars in judgments against sponsors of terror, including Iran and North Korea. This year, it won a 655 million dollar judgment against the Palestinian Authority for terror murders against US citizens in Israel.

I don’t have space to review all the Conference’s speakers. Here’s my version of some of the action:

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat spoke about Jerusalem’s security arrangements. He stated that, for Jerusalem, the best defense is offense. He explained how Jerusalem does that.  

Venture Capitalist Jonathan Medved, CEO of VC company, OurCrowd, spoke about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. But instead of describing how to fight BDS, he spoke of how Israel is causing BDS to choke.

The reality of Israel, he said, is that foreign investment into Israel rises each year at a double-digit rate. In 2015, more than 4.5 billion dollars flowed into Israel. Foreign investors are buying more than 100 Israeli companies a year. Foreign investors aren’t talking about divesting. They’re talking about investing into Israel.

Prof Rachel Vanlandingham, former Judge Advocate, US Air Force, spoke about the International Criminal Court (ICC). She suggested that, when one looks at how the ICC treats Israel, one is forced to ask if the ICC has been hijacked to serve political ends. She discussed why one would ask such a question.

Atrtorney Yael Vias Gvirsman, Director, International Criminal and Humanitarian Law Clinic at Radznyr Law School began her presentation with the question, what should Israel’s position be towards the ICC? As she explored this question, she reminded everyone that Israel had ratified the ICC—but didn’t sign it (in the late 1990’s) for fear that the ICC would become politicized against Israel.

Dr Korir Sing’oei, Legal Advisor in the office of the Deputy President of Kenya told a cautionary tale about the ICC, one that suggested Israel was correct to be wary of a politicized ICC.

In 2013, he said, the ICC hauled the Deputy President of Kenya into court (at the Hague) to try him for crimes against humanity just at a time when Kenya was roiling in violence. His view of the ICC is that the ICC was not an instrument of justice. It didn’t address the rights of the victims, nor did it appear to work to bring justice to Kenya. It was, in his opinion, political.

During this first day, two Israeli politicians spoke: Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid. Both gave professional speeches. Livni spoke of her basic political value: Israel is Jewish and democratic; Israel must not sacrifice its democracy to its Jewishness (at least, that’s what I believe she said). I disagree with that. I say, she’s wrong.

Lapid was different. Yes, he was off topic. But I really liked what he had to say: he spoke about the UN. He offered detail-after-detail to show that the UN has lost its morality and credibility over its demonization of Israel. At least, that’s what I heard him say.

There were other speakers and other topics. I don’t have time to review all of them. But one favourite of mine from last year’s Conference, Prof Geoffrey Corn from South Texas College of Law, returned to talk about cyberwar.

He began with a question: is international law sufficiently resilient to deal with the changing nature of war, especially cyberwar? He quoted a US Army General telling a recent NATO Conference that NATO was unprepared to deal with Russian cyber attacks.

It seems that few are prepared. Some of the issues I heard Prof Corn raise include:

-Are we prepared to say that cyber has become an instrument of war?

-Can cyber attacks be an act of war?

-What kind of cyber attack constitutes an act of war?

-If a cyber attack is an act of war, how does a state legally respond to it?

These are questions, Corn suggested, international law is going to have to deal with. So will Israel. According to speaker Dr Udi Levy, Former Israel Intelligence officer, Israel is dealing with just this issue--on multiple fronts.

Former US Ambassador John Bolton spoke (“Bolton warns: Hillary will sign America up to the ICC”, Arutz Sheva, June 20, 2016). So did a number of others.

These speakers are experts. Their expertise shows. Their speeches suggest that Israel is a lot stronger then we’ve been led to believe.

Tomorrow is Day 2. We’ll talk about Judea-Samaria-Gaza; incitement on Facebook and social media; ISIS and Syria. MK Naftali Bennett is scheduled to speak. If you’re interested in attending, we’ll be at the Dan Jerusalem Hotel. I’ll try to give you another report tomorrow evening.