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Dershowitz in the LA Times

Dershowitz has an interesting op-ed in the LA Times today.

For the most part, Dershowitz is correct. He argues that who is and isn’t a civilian in a lot of conflicts is not that clear:

There is a vast difference — both moral and legal — between a 2-year-old who is killed by an enemy rocket and a 30-year-old civilian who has allowed his house to be used to store Katyusha rockets. Both are technically civilians, but the former is far more innocent than the latter. There is also a difference between a civilian who merely favors or even votes for a terrorist group and one who provides financial or other material support for terrorism.

Finally, there is a difference between civilians who are held hostage against their will by terrorists who use them as involuntary human shields, and civilians who voluntarily place themselves in harm’s way in order to protect terrorists from enemy fire.

These differences and others are conflated within the increasingly meaningless word “civilian” — a word that carried great significance when uniformed armies fought other uniformed armies on battlefields far from civilian population centers. Today this same word equates the truly innocent with guilty accessories to terrorism.

It’s hard to disagree with that. However, Dershowitz goes off the rails later:

The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. Some — those who cannot leave on their own — should be counted among the innocent victims.

In a word: no. Being too scared or too hard headed to leave is not being complicit. It’s being human. More than just active supporters and people who are unable to leave stay behind.

I find Dershowitz to be mostly right on this issue, but he’s searching for something that isn’t there. He, like most partisans of either side, wants to see this confict without ambiguity. Israel has killed a lot of innocent people. Dershowitz will acknowledge this, but he still wants a way out of the recognition of the moral imperfection that comes with such an acknowledgement.

(via Political Animal)

Categories: Israel/Palestine
  1. Steve T.
    July 23, 2006 at 7:59 pm

    What Dershowitz (and you) fail to point out that part of guerilla warfare is blending in with the population. It’s the only way they can survive as an army.

    Does it put civilians at risk? Yes. Is that right? No.

    But is Hezbollah any different than any other guerilla organization? More evil? I think not.

    Aside from that, Israel’s destruction of Civilian infrastructure in Lebanon is inexcusable. They’ve hit a dairy farm, a packaging plant, a paper mill, and a pharmaceuticals plant. All storing rockets, I suppose…right?

    *http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=74078*

    Israel had the moral high ground when it went after Hezbollah… but they’ve lost it by devastating Lebanon, and decreasing any ability it ever had to control Hezbollah.

  2. July 23, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    But is Hezbollah any different than any other guerilla organization? More evil? I think not.

    What does that have to do with anything? Neither Dershowitz nor I said this only applies only to anti-Israel groups.

  3. Steve T.
    July 23, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Dershowitz is trying to justify the killing of civilians by Israelis. You say it is hard to disagree with him. That is a bunch of bullarkey.

    That was the point of my post.

  4. July 23, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    Um, it doesn’t seem like it. Your objection was that other guerilla organizations use the same tactics as Hezbollah, wasn’t it? That’s what you said. I don’t see an objection claiming Dershowitz or I were trying to justify civilian deaths.

    I said it’s hard to disagree that that collaborating with Hezbollah makes you less of a civilian and that what constitutes a civilian isn’t exactly clear cut. This seems really obvious. I disagreed with Dershowitz when he tried to justify the civilian casualities in Lebanon.

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