Deaths of non-combatants including children in the downing of Malaysian Flight 17 and the fighting in Gaza show international law is ineffective, says Yale Prof. Paul Kahn.
The primary aim of international humanitarian law, since World War II, has been to insulate civilians from military violence, writes Kahn in an essay on Al Jeezera July 19.
However, he notes, those with sufficient arms and financing can flout the law and get away with it.
“When conflict turns violent, as it has in the Ukraine, we must hope that we can trust the judgment of politicians, for the law has nothing to say,” he writes.
“The Israelis and the Palestinians have been living this reality of politics beyond law for several generations,” he writes. “They have become adept at managing the violence, for neither side has any reasonable plan for settling the dispute politically.”
Media reported 985 Palestinians had been killed and 39 Israelis including two civilians as of 11 a.m. July 26 as the fighting entered a house-by-house stage.
Neither Can Control Rockets
Both the Palestinians and rebels in Eastern Ukraine have one thing in common, he notes—lack of control of their rockets.
The Palestinian rockets are “too primitive to discriminate in their targets” and a similar “lack of sophistication” in the equipment of the Ukraine secessionists resulted in the downing of Flight 17, he adds.
Hamas combatants violate international law by not openly identifying themselves from civilians. But Kahn notes that only by hiding can they survive.
He says Israel, which is also using weapons that impact civilians, can claim it is complying with the laws of combat “but few outside of Israel accept that as an excuse when the death and injury rates are so out of proportion on the two sides.”
The New York Times reported July 19 that four Israeli rockets hit the same floor of a building in Rafah housing a dozen foreign and Palestinian journalists who “narrowly escaped.” Israel issued a statement that it was not responsible for the safety of journalists.
Coverage Abroad Differs
Coverage of Israel/Palestine in Europe is “vastly different in scope and content” than such coverage in the U.S., wrote Christian Science Monitor Africa editor Robert Marquand July 18.
His essay was headlined, “British MPs decry rockets from Hamas but say that’s little excuse for Israeli behavior.” The report supplies quotes from a discussion by Conservative and Labor Members of Parliament.
Former foreign secretary Jack Straw said none of the MPs have “any truck” with the terrorism of Hamas but that the Israelis have shown “they have no regard themselves for international law.”
“There can be no peace until there is an end to the blockade of Gaza for even the most basic economic materials,” said Labor MP Richard Burden.
Marquand writes that “There is less willingness by the Brits to take at face value the specter of Hamas as a rationale for any and all behavior by Tel Aviv.”
Coverage of Israel/Palestine and the downing of Flight 17 have touched off many hundreds of web comments by laypeople that reflect many different viewpoints.
One posting is that what Hamas is doing is “classic PR”—trying to get the world’s attention to conditions that it feels are unbearable. The rockets it possesses are primitive and of little military threat to Israel, as Kahn points out.
Social Media Plays Role
Postings on social media are having key effects in the Ukraine and Gaza narratives.
Ukrainian rebels were initially so joyous about downing another aircraft that they posted on Russian Social media that they had just shot down a Ukrainian cargo plane. “We did warn you—do not fly in our sky,” wrote Igor Girkin, a leader of the Donetsk People’s Army. They did not know they had shot down a plane with 298 civilians in it.
Girkin might as well have posted it on CNN or sent it to the New York Times. Media as well as institutions and companies monitor SM as much as traditional media.
CNN correspondent Diana Magnay tweeted that Israelis who cheered as bombs landed on Gaza were “scum” and got pulled from the conflict. CNN said Magnay “deeply regrets the language used” and said her words were directed only at a group that had been targeting the CNN crew.
Her tweet was later removed but there is no such thing on the web. Comments by the Ukrainians on the downed jet had also been “removed” to no avail.
Woman Languishes in Iran Prison
Another victim of what she said on social media (Facebook) is U.K. and Iranian citizen Roya Nobakht, who has been in Evin prison in Iran for seven months.
Her posting had criticized former supreme leader the Ayatollah Khomeini and said the government was “too Islamic.” It resulted in a 20-year prison term.
The New York Daily News, covering the story April 4, reported that friends of her have said she has lost 40 pounds and is “scared the government will kill her.”
She has also said she would rather die than spend 20 years in prison.
Andrew Stunell, Member of Parliament for Nobakht’s home district in Manchester, has been pressuring U.K.’s foreign affairs office to bring her home.
CNN and Fox News saw big jumps in their audiences in covering Flight 17 and Israel/Palestine. CNN, which had early on-the-spot coverage of the Flight 17 crash scene, saw its rating jump 82% in total viewers on July 17 compared with the previous four Thursdays.
|Joe Honick, GMA International Ltd (Jul. 22, 2014):|
I had hoped these would not be introduced here, but this being the case, you have opened up whole new areas of conflict commentary possibilities. It is interesting and more than a little disturbing that, as the numbers of Palestinian casualties are headlined, somehow the media and you have forgotten the more than 150,000 Syrian men, women and children just so far killed by the Assad government which has also driven more than a million into exile around the Middle East. Why are those horrendous stats no long in the headlines and far below other data related to Gaza?
What we have and what should be better reviewed by media mavens is what I call Diffused Focus: we only seem to give a damn about today's statistics and willingly forget what has been an ongoing slaughter in Syria, rape and worse in Nigeria and Somalia. There is no question of the tragedy of the current Israeli enough-is-enough necessity to challenge Hamas. When compared to the wars of attrition in other times and for other reasons, it would be useful to step back. We did not make such a fuss when American military were risking their lives to save Arabs in Gulf wars or oil fields in Iraq.
If we wish to make specific long term conflicts major media considerations, it is imperative we apply some historical perspective or forget the whole thing.