Monday, June 1, 2015

International Humanitarian Law and an Arab snake

The leadership of the so-called ‘Palestinian people’ supposedly believes in ‘rights’. It supposedly believes in fighting torture and cruelty. It supposedly believes in protecting the weak. It supposedly believes in the laws of war (also known as, International Humanitarian Law, or IHL).

We suspect these things because this leadership—and its officials—are forever telling the world about cruelty, torture and the oppression of the weak committed by Israelis. It’s forever telling the world how Israel commits war crimes by violating the rules of IHL.

So if this leadership is always talking about these things, it stands to reason that they know what they’re talking about, right?


These ‘rights’ and ‘IHL’ specialists engage in the very kinds of cruelty, torture and IHL violations they claim is the exclusive provenance of the Israelis. They even report on their cruelty and IHL violations in their press.  

I’m referring to an apparently innocuous story in the ‘Palestinian’ news titled, “Report: Palestinian protesters use snake against Israeli forces”, Ma’an News Agency, May 30, 2015).

The report came with a picture that showed a long snake, its tail tied to a piece of rebar sticking out of a section of a broken concrete barrier. The snake was pinned, trapped.

The report stated that this story had appeared first in the Israeli press (ibid). It seems that both the Israelis and ‘Palestinians’ thought the snake was poisonous (ibid). The ‘Palestinian’ story quoted the original Israeli story as referring to the use of this snake against Israeli soldiers as the ‘new ‘Palestinian’ weapon (against Israel)’.

That’s not much of a story, is it?  It’s a little weird to see a snake being used as a weapon. But other than that, what’s so special about this story?

Take another look. Answer these questions:  is using a poisonous snake against an enemy (Israel) a war crime? Is it cruelty to animals? Is it both? Is it illegal to treat animals like that?

So far as I can tell, the answer looks like, yes to all of the above.  That seems to be the conclusion one can draw from a text on the rules of war (Customary International Humaitarian Law, Vol 2: Practice, Part 1, ed. Jean-Marie Henckaerts and Louise Doswald-Beck, published by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Cambridge, pp 1577-1579).

It would appear that it’s possible that the use of a poisonous snake (or a snake you and your enemy believe to be poisonous) is a weapon that’s “incompatible with human rights law and International Humanitarian Law”  according to a UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights, Res. 1996/16,August 29, 1996). In addition, a snake isn’t like a bullet. By its very nature, a snake as a weapon is ‘indiscriminate’ in that it can’t be controlled enough to bite just the one you want bitten.

That kind of weapon is “by nature indiscriminate”—and therefore, apparently illegal according to accepted laws of war (p. 1577).

As a weapon, a snake bite can cause unnecessary suffering to the one bitten; and “the emergence of new methods of warfare that cause unnecessary suffering” is considered to be illegal (ibid). The same is true for the use of weapons that are “indiscriminate and cruel” (ibid).

How strange. Those who so demand ‘rights’ and ‘safety’ with such a keen eye for legal detail treat a simple animal with cruelty, use that animal as a weapon of war, commit more than one war crime with it and do all of this with no clue whatsoever that they abuse both the animal and the law.

Perhaps this incident teaches a lesson. Perhaps it teaches us that, when it comes to cruelty, torture and the commission of war crimes, these so-called ‘rights’ specialists—Arab leaders and their officials--don’t have a clue what constitutes cruelty, torture or the violation of the laws of war.

Perhaps this incident also teaches us that, if these leaders don’t have a clue about the law, then they don’t really know how to adhere to the law when they ‘resist’ Israel. Is that possible?

You bet it is.



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