Yesterday, brought news that Israel is taking the extraordinary step of prosecuting Hezbollah fighters for, er fighting against Israel. In other words, three grunts Israel captured during the war in Lebanon will be tried by a civilian court for their “crimes” in fighting against Israeli forces there:
Three Hezbollah operatives captured by the Israel Defense Forces during the war went on trial for criminal charges at the Nazareth District Court yesterday.
Hussein Suleiman of Beirut, Maher Qurani from the village of Yatar, and Muhammad Sarur of Aita al-Shaab stand accused of membership in a terrorist organization. All three were Hezbollah fighters…
Suleiman is also charged with murder and kidnapping due to his alleged involvement in the July 12 operation at Moshav Zarit in which 8 IDF soldiers were killed and two abducted. Suleiman belonged to one of several cells whose job was to ambush the IDF troops who entered Lebanon in pursuit of the kidnappers.
All three are also charged with attempted murder, attempted kidnapping and conspiracy to commit a crime for their alleged involvement in previous efforts by Hezbollah to carry out similar operations…
Gee, I thought that’s what soldiers were supposed to do–to fight the enemy. I thought that’s what IDF troops do–follow military orders and fight Israel’s enemies.
Apparently, Israel is no longer satisfied by conventional definitions of what it means to be a soldier. In its view, the IDF is doing God’s work and everyone who fights against it is committing a crime for doing so. It will be very interesting to see if an Israeli civilian court buys this new-fangled approach to definitions of war.
This strange legal initiative also begs the question: what does Israel expect will happen to every IDF soldier kidnapped from here to the end of time? That they will be treated strictly according to the Geneva Convention? With respect and dignity? Have they not thought about the precedent this would create for IDF soldiers being paraded before a Lebanese or Syrian court and tried for crimes against the citizens of those countries? I’d say Israel is playing with some serious fire here and that it ought to put down the match before it gets severely burned by its own stupidity. I thought they were trying to free Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev and not see them standing before an Arab dock of justice.
The charge against the Lebanese that they are members of a terrorist organization are also interesting. How do you invoke Israeli law against citizens of another country who never stepped foot in your own till you captured or kidnapped them and brought them there? It is certainly not illegal to belong to Hezbollah in Lebanon (just the contrary). So how do you apply Israeli law in this circumstance? It seems beyond ridiculous.
This colloquy between defense and prosecuting attorneys proves beyond a doubt how flimsy the Israeli case is:
Smadar Ben-Natan, who represents Suleiman and Qurani, and Itai Hermelin, Sarur’s lawyer, argued that the defendants are not subject to Israeli law, and are entitled to be treated as prisoners of war.
State Prosecutor Mirit Stern countered that the men are not legally prisoners of war, since they do not operate according to the laws and customs of war.
Oh I see. Hezbollah is not an army. Doesn’t have a military hierarchy. Fighters don’t take orders from their superiors. They don’t fight using the tactics of military forces the world over. The defendant’s response tells it all:
“We are not terrorists. We are fighters in a resistance movement and act in the defense of our homeland,” Suleiman said. “We act under directions from Nasrallah
If you try to read through the Kabuki-like performance here I suppose one could say that this prosecution is mostly for domestic consumption as Olmert tries to shore up his right flank after the severe shellacking he’s taken from the public for his handling of the war. It can also be read as yet more posturing for the sake of Hezbollah like a rooster puffing out its chest to make itself appear bigger and bolder than it has any right to claim. In other words, you kidnap our soldiers, we’ll not only kidnap yours–we’ll try them as common criminals for murder.
In truth, it’s all hollow and empty legal maneuvering–‘full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.’
Meron Benvenisti wrote a powerful Haaretz commentary on the issue of Israel’s attempt to criminialize resistance to the Occupation:
The ideological basis for these legal steps is the definition of the suspects as terrorists. In other words, criminals. Their supporters are defined as traitors. Israel has taken it upon itself to define what legitimate violence is, and it is claiming a monopoly on the use of force, demanding that others accept its unilateral definitions. If they do not, they will be accused of being hostile, or worse. All practical resistance to Israel, whether violent or political, is an act whose purpose is illegitimate. Therefore, the definition of a “terrorist act” is not limited to the murder of innocents; it includes any use of “illegitimate” force. This definition encompasses “incitement” and “abetting the enemy.” One could say, on the basis of this mainstream outlook, that a person can be either a Zionist or a terrorist….
The trial of the Hezbollah fighters only heightens the absurdity and stains the legal system, which is ready to subserviently serve a military establishment that aims to humiliate an imprisoned enemy. According to the state’s representative, “these are not prisoners [of war], because Hezbollah does not abide by the rules of war.” Does Israel strictly adhere to the rules of war? Whoever denies his enemies the status of prisoners of war exposes his own imprisoned soldiers to the same treatment…
The attempt to describe the second Lebanon War as a police action, in which a number of criminals were caught and are now being tried for murder and attempted murder, is so pathetic that it should be abandoned immediately.