Jack Todd’s column on fighting terrorism with “state terrorism” presents an egregiously erroneous view of the origins of the current Middle East conflict and a total misunderstanding of state responsibilities and appropriate response in the existing international legal order. His words manifest, at best, woeful ignorance and, at worst, deliberate distortion.
When he asks whether it matters who started the conflict he exhibits a dangerous naiveté that is pervasive in the media and encourages young extremists, such as the Toronto 17, to make common cause with the vilest elements in this very dangerous world. Responsibility matters. And is matters precisely because terrorists, and terror-states, must know that their actions cannot be carried out without restraint of consequence.
This conflict did not start, as Mr. Todd suggests, with the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. It started when Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza and was assaulted over the successive months by 1000 Qassam rocket attacks carried out by Hamas. Mr. Todd sates that someone has to have the courage to stop conflict. Well, Israel tried. It did not retaliate for a single attack. It took the body blows.
But then Hamas was elected the government of the Palestinian Authority. That was the beginning of the road we are on today. Within an hour after the attack on Kerem Shalom - on the Israeli side of the Gaza border - which resulted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of another, Hamas gleefully accepted responsibility for the planning and execution of it. Hamas, as the ruling entity of a political jurisdiction had committed an act of war against another political jurisdiction. The State of Israel.
Hezbollah’s attack near Kiryat Shemona in the north of Israel that resulted in eight dead Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two others was also no mere act of a terrorist group for Hezbollah is much more than that. Hezbollah, as a political party, is part of the Lebanese government holding two cabinet posts. That government has, for six years following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from south Lebanon, refused to comply with UN resolution 1559 and disarm Hezbollah’s military wing. And Lebanese President Lahoud and Prime Minister Zinoura have gone beyond mere refusal in just the past week. Zinoura was taped in an interview by Italy’s respected “Corriere della Sera” as stating unequivocally that he does not want Hezbollah disarmed. Lahoud went even further that that on CNN. He flatly declared that the Lebanese army, which Lebanon has consistently refused to dispatch to Hezbollah territory in south Lebanon, will fight with Hezbollah against Israel. Lebanon has declared, in fact and in law – and against the desires of most of the Lebanese people who so valiantly attempted the “Cedar” revolution to be free - that the Hezbollah military is a division of the Lebanese army. In so doing, the Lebanese government has hoisted itself on its own pétard.
International law recognizes that any country attacked by a terrorist group may prosecute military reprisals against the host country of such a group as if, in international legal authority Robert Tucker’s words, “That country itself participated in those attacks.” This is known as the doctrine of “self-help”. It has been accepted by every legal authority from Julius Stone to Derek Bowett from Kelsen to Oppenheim as applying equally to the UN when that “august” body will not, or cannot, act. Due to Canada’s sponsorship of the International Commission on State Sovereignty and Intervention (ICSSI) we have yet another dimension to “self-help”, that being the “responsibility to protect”. Two successive Canadian administrations have embraced and endorsed this ICSSI doctrine. A doctrine which not only obligates a state to protect its own citizens against attack as Israel is doing, but goes further and imposes on obligation on the family of nations to protect any population that has been the victim of aggression and violence by its own leaders within its own borders over-riding the ancient Westphalian standard of physical borders being sovereign and sacrosanct.
But in the case of Lebanon we need not even resort to these noble standards of international law. The government of Lebanon, through its President and Prime Minister, has made it clear that Hezbollah, both politically and militarily, is an integral part of the Lebanese ruling authority and of its army. Therefore the actions of Hezbollah were ipso facto done in the name of the Lebanese state and were therefore acts of war the Israeli state committed by Lebanon as well as Hezbollah. Israel is permitted full retaliatory response to defend itself and its people.
Furthermore, Mr. Todd’s implication that Israel is targeting Lebanese civilians and not taking even minimum precautions to protect them, borders on the worst kind of bias. Israel has showered Beirut with millions of leaflets hours before any raids. Yesterday Israel did the same in south Lebanon asking people to move back 20 miles. It even invited television crews to film its preparations on the northern border, something that NBC military analyst and U.S. Medal of Honour winner Col. Jack Jacobs called wonderfully humanitarian but militarily “stupid” because it put Israel’s soldiers at risk by exposing their positions to Hezbollah.
No civilians have ever been targeted. Israel’s bombing of Hezbollah positions in south Lebanon and in Beirut has been as surgical as possible. Contrary to many of the pictures we see on television, even the bombing in south Beirut has been limited to an area approximately 20 blocks long by 10 blocks wide. President Lahoud, unintentionally of course, even pointed this area out to CNN correspondent Nic Robertson two days ago.
Anyone seeing the tape will view a Beirut quite intact except for the area where the Hezbollah cowards position their guns and headquarters under the human shield of civilians. Why doesn’t Mr. Todd question Hezbollah’s strategy of hiding behind women and children not only in south Beirut, but in the villages of south Lebanon? And curiously he fails to mention that Hezbollah and Hamas have openly stated its policy that all Israeli civilians are fodder for their homicide bombers. Yes it is sad that hundreds of Lebanese have been killed. But is it any less sad that Israelis have had to suffer over 9,000 terror attacks and thousands dead in the past six years? Or is Israeli blood cheaper than Lebanese blood?
General Lewis MacKenzie pointed out recently that if numbers-crunching was a standard of rules of engagement how would the allies have avoided condemnation in World War II since they killed five times as many German civilians in bombing raids on German cities as Germans killed in bombing raids on France and England.
Mr. Todd’s gratuitous attack on Prime Minister Harper’s bold foreign and military policies as “slavishly following the lead of the United States” is an insult to Mr. Harper; demonstrates Mr. Todd’s own chattering-class knee-jerk anti-Americanism, and exhibits his ignorance of Canada’s legacy of having twice the number of servicemen and women in uniform as a percentage of population than America did in both World Wars.
Mr. Harper is not following the U.S. He is leading Canada. He was the first western leader to demand that Hamas renounce violence upon its election. The first to cut off non-humanitarian aid to Hamas. The first to demand the arrest of Saeed Mortazavi, the Iranian prosecutor who beat Montreal photojournalist Zara Khazemi over the head with his shoe during torture sessions that led to her death, when Iran sent him as its observer to the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva. And when Harper declared in Kandahar that Canadians “don’t cut and run” he restored Canadian pride and purpose and put the world on notice that we were back on course as a nation that would be engaged in mankind’s transcendent struggles for redemptive change. No longer were we to be just salon liberals cowering in smug self-satisfaction that masked nothing less than our own self-doubt driven by a jealousy of others self-belief.
Mr. Todd’s charge that Ottawa is “bungling” the evacuation effort is rank hypocrisy. It took Canada no longer than America to organize the effort but it was harder because Canada has no military assets in the Mediterranean. No ships. No planes. And once again to quote Gen. Mackenzie, this is the result “of fifteen years of opposition by the “progressives” in this country” - whom Mr. Todd probably admires – “to the purchase of any military hardware including heavy-lift aircraft and any naval vessels”. Canada has had to lease them from private enterprises. Or didn’t Mr. Todd get the memo?
Mr. Todd is also wrong on the scale of the evacuation. His statement that Canada is attempting to evacuate “a few thousand” shows how little he knows. There are some 40,000 Lebanese who hold Canadian passports. They don’t all live in Canada. Only some 10,000 do. But over 25,000 have applied to be taken out. Do the math Mr. Todd. Don’t facts matter anymore? Or are they mere fodder to be molded to suit pre-conceived notions?
This is not, in Mr. Todd’s words, “a perpetuation of a cycle of violence”. For as history has shown, every time Israel remained quiescent and accepted the body blows, Arab states and terrorist groups viewed these as signs of weakness and attacked again and again and again. Nor is it an “eye for an eye” as he says. In the 1920’s and 1930’s before there was an Israel, or a Hitler, hundreds of Palestinian Jews were slaughtered in Jaffa, in Hebron, in Safed and half a dozen other cities. All these murders were done on the instructions of the religious and political leader of Palestine’s Arab Muslims, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini who spent World War II in Berlin as a guest of, and radio propagandist for, Adolf Hitler and was to be tried at Nuremberg as a war criminal before he was smuggled back to the Middle East with the aid of the French and the British. Husseini’s nephew Feisal was one of Yassir Arafat’s closest collaborators and as a co-founder of the PLO an active participant in that organization’s bloodlust for the Jews.
Mr. Todd’s continuing perpetuation of moral relativism and political equivalency achieves nothing but expose his own ethical turpitude. He would greatly benefit from some refresher courses in reality. As Santayana admonished the world, “Those who forget the errors of the past are bound to repeat them.”