International law is not a suicide pact. Relentless Hamas rocket attacks upon Israel from Gaza leave Prime Minister Netanyahu little choice but to respond.
This is not, however, a symmetrical "cycle of violence." Rather, it is a classic case of criminality and anti-criminality, of terrorism and counter-terrorism.
Ritually, Hamas alleges that it is merely "resisting occupation." But where, exactly, are the Israeli "occupiers?" In fact, they are long gone, a risky departure mandated years ago by then Prime Minister Sharon's "disengagement." Ironically, but also predictably, Israel's "reward" for leaving Gaza in the presumed interest of regional peace has been a steady escalation of Palestinian violence, directed against vulnerable Israeli civilians.
There is no cycle of violence in the remorseless Palestinian war against Israeli noncombatants. Insistently, Hamas argues that its flagrantly intentional killings of noncombatants are in proper “retaliation” for Israel's “occupation.” Even now, as Israel must prepare to mount yet another unavoidable offensive, Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement) steadfastly refuses to renounce “armed struggle.”
And even now, by systematically launching its rocket attacks from populated Gaza areas, Hamas, and also Islamic Jihad (Al-Quds Brigades) resorts to the prohibited practice of human shields. In normal parlance, one would call the policy of hiding behind one's own women and children for safety "barbaric." In law, the formal term for such exceptional and punishable cowardice is "perfidy."
"Moderate" Fatah, still in command in the Palestinian Authority-controlled 'West Bank' (Judea/Samaria) revealed, in a recent Internal Order Document (Article 17): “The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine.” And at Article 19: “The struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine.”
“Palestine,” of course, includes all of Israel. According to a very recent Hamas bulletin: "Haifa, Jaffa, and Tel-Aviv...all of Palestine, will be liberated."
The Palestine Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, three years before the Israeli "occupation." What, exactly, was the PLO seeking to liberate from 1964 - 1967? What about persistent Arab terror from the 1949 armistice until June 1967?
During that period, Gaza was held illegally by Egypt, and 'West Bank' (Judea/Samaria) illegally by Jordan. No Israeli "territories." What was then the object of Arab (Fedayeen) terror?
Even as the Palestinian Authority seeks statehood through the back door of the UN General Assembly, Fatah’s position calls plainly for more terrorism. From the standpoint of international law, there is no reasonable way that such a refractory stance could ever be judged comparable or equivalent to Israel’s own commitment to oppose egregious international crimes.
To argue otherwise – to suggest openly, or even tacitly, that there remains some sort of “cycle of violence” in the Middle East – would be tantamount to accepting the following: (1) a duly constituted democratic state, and a criminal terror organization are of an equivalent legal stature; and (2) terrorist leaders and defenseless civilians represent equally permissible targets.
There are palpably vital differences between criminality and law-enforcement. The war between Hamas and Israel is a quintessential and incontestable case in point.
Even if the incessant Palestinian refrain of an Israeli "occupation" were not concocted, and even if the contrived claims of "stolen Palestinian land" made any real historical or legal sense, there could still never be any legal justification for the deliberate Fatah and Hamas policies of terror. Significantly, on these common and unhidden policies, there is not a shred of legal difference between the two terror groups.
As long as Israel yields to pressure to travel a suicidal "Road Map," Palestinian “suicide” bombers will reemerge with new fervor and with an expanded destructiveness. These terrorists fight for their own personal reputations, and, ultimately, for their own personal immortality. In actuality, however counterintuitive, they fear death even more intensely than do ordinary human beings. This is because the "suicide" that they expect to suffer is only a momentary inconvenience on the blessed "martyr's" sacred propulsion to "paradise."
Palestinian terrorists are not “militants.” They are not revolutionaries. Their expected "martyrdom" is essentially a desperate way to avoid personal death. Packing explosives with nails, screws, and razor blades dipped in rat poison, Hamas and Fatah are merely murderers.
Terror groups never have any right to "retaliate" under international law, no more so than would an individual criminal in domestic society have any such right against municipal police authorities.
Terror groups never have any right to "retaliate" under international law, no more so than would an individual criminal in domestic society have any such right against municipal police authorities. Indisputably, on the basis of their own current statements and platforms, Fatah and Hamas are organizations that recognize no proper boundaries in the use of violence. Absolutely none.
Such boundaries, however, do remain a critical and binding component of humanitarian international law, or the Law of War.
So, what is Netanyahu to do? There has never been a "cycle of violence in the Middle East." For the so-called international community, it is finally time to say so conspicuously, and to stop alleging any sort of equivalence between relentless Palestinian terror, and indispensable Israeli counter-terror.
To start, as Israel prepares for yet another obligatory war of self-defense, the UN should resist rewarding the terrorists. It should, therefore, reject the now-circulating PA draft resolution to support Palestinian statehood by endorsing an upgraded and undeserved Observer status in the General Assembly. In essence, any such upgrade to "Nonmember Observer State" would grant legitimacy to the cynical Palestinian end-run around pertinent international law.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES, Professor of International Law at Purdue, was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971). He publishes widely on terrorism and international law. Dr. Beres is the author of many of the earliest major books dealing with nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, and also with Israel’s nuclear strategy. In Israel, he was Chair of Project Daniel (2003). He was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.