norway


We are clearly moving from the era of “Israel bombs civilians and civilian infrastructure by mistake” to the Machiavellan era of “the end justifies the means” — Israel’s “educational” methods justifies its “counterstrategy,” all very logical and Enlightened, of course. Consider Thomas Friedman’s latest Op-Ed commenting on Israel’s method against Hizballah in 2006 and against Hamas today:

Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future.

Then further down:

In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to “educate” Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims.

[read the whole frigging thing here if you want]

This is not news to those at the receiving end of Israel’s educational methods. What is news is Friedman’s honest assessment of these methods. Apart from the absolute stupidity of the notion that targeting civilians will restrain the “terrorists”, the reasoning is also chilling. It is a small step from justifying intentional “collateral damage” — even the paradox of “intentional collateral” is “logical”, of course, since Israel is a member of the Enlightened Western world — to justifying much more.

The bombing of schools and hospitals housing refugees? Logical. The bombing of UN’s HQ and its medicine and food supply? Logical. The bombing of Red Cross facilities? Logical. The psychological torture of imprisoning a population and insuring that they feel there is absolutely no place to hide? Perfectly logical. If “the banality of evil” ever seemed like too strange a concept, Thomas Friedman is its personification. In fact, if it were not for his “logical” justification of the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, he would be just… banal.

In other news, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr-Støre, was in Cairo today where he uttered the following sentence — illogical, no doubt:

What we see in Gaza, with disproportional use of power, with lack of distinction between civilian and military targets, with obstruction to humanitarian help to victims and civilians, are clear breaches of international humanitarian law.

Today, around a 100 countries, including Lebanon, became signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. What came to be known as “the Oslo Process” was pushed to this conclusion by the Red-Green Norwegian government despite US lobbying to undermine the treaty. US officials have even accused Norway of buying nations off to join the process, according to Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch (Source: Klasvåpen – det umuliges kunst, documentary in Norwegian). In the same documentary, Norwegian foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, explains that the watershed in the process came after the summer war of 2006 — when Israel dropped more than a million cluster bombs over south Lebanon in the final days of the war. Israel, however, is not a signatory to the treaty. Neither are the three major arms producers China, Russia, and the United States.

That is not the only flaw in the treaty. By pursuing independent organizational channels, the Norwegian brokers evaded the situation where a veto in the UN or the dominant member in NATO could bring down the treaty. However, the compromise reached in Dublin earlier this year included an article allowing treaty signatories “to engage in military cooperation and operations with States not parties to this Convention that might engage in activities prohibited to a State party.” (Source: HRW)

Still, it is a step in what can only be a long and difficult process. Optimists are hoping that by ostracizing certain countries, the treaty will put pressure on them to eventually join. The United States obviously takes it seriously, least of all because it would need to remove its cluster munitions at several bases around the world. On another level — and I think of this particularly when I remember some of the chilling discussions on the “legality” of Israel’s cluster bomb dumping during the Lebanon war — at least now there is a minimum ethical line in writing.