The following letters appear in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:
Peter Wertheim (Letters, June 4) is right to say the Geneva Conventions are ”an expression of customary international law and are universally applicable”. The whole civilised world agrees, except the Israeli Supreme Court, which said they did not apply to the occupied Palestinians because without a prior sovereign there could be no occupation. There will be no peaceful solution until Israel recognises they are truly universal.
Paul Unger Grenfell
Many thanks to Peter Wertheim for clearing up the application of customary international law to Israel’s actions last Monday. I wonder if he could advise if the Palestinians might be able to take the same sort of action under the same law in their endeavours to rid themselves of the 340,000 Israelis living illegally in settlements on their land.
Frank Adshead Mona Vale
In the beginning was self-defence: if you hit me, I’ll hit back harder, until you no longer can. Then came international law, the process by which states, to protect their own, agreed to mutual limits: if you keep your blows above the belt, I will too. They limited action against other states, each other’s citizens and their own, and they agreed that attacks that came from your territory counted as yours – as much an invitation to hit back harder as if you had made them yourself.
Some people argue that non-state foreign attackers, although they recognise no limits themselves, should be protected by the states’ self-imposed limits on retaliation against other states. They claim that states have no rights against non-states, only responsibilities. This is nonsense, of course. If attackers fall outside the definition of the limits, they are entitled to no protection.
Judith Rona Bondi
The fact that the San Remo Manual may embody customary international law does not at all mean that it is of universal application. A blockade is an act of war, and Israel is not at war with the Gaza Strip. As a matter of law, it cannot be at war with the Gaza Strip. Israel is conducting a blockade, but not one recognised as legitimate under international law. It is repulsive to claim that boarding foreign ships in international waters was justified by the need to prevent them breaching a blockade that was illegal to begin with.
Nicholas Olson Peakhurst
Describing how the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was being prepared for the arrival of the Israeli soldiers, Paul McGeough mentions that ”electric angle-grinders were brought in – to cut steel bars from the lifeboat bays”. I am curious to know what these steel bars were going to be used for. Peaceful protests?
Michael Messer Balmain
Would Paul McGeough accompany a convoy of “peace activists” bringing humanitarian aid to Kurdish rebels in Turkey? He might then be able to write an informed article on the relative merits of Turkish and Israeli jails.
Michael Jaku Double Bay
”Strange times indeed,” says Immanuel Suttner (Letters, June 4). What he found strange, among other things, was Turkey’s treatment of its Kurdish minority and the seeming indifference of Herald letter-writers. Turkey was, until recently, a good friend of Israel, notwithstanding its behaviour towards the Kurds. And I don’t remember reading Mr Suttner’s protestations about it.
Andrew Sarkadi Double Bay
I commend the editorial imploring diaspora Jews to question the actions of the Israeli government (”Candour is not Israel’s enemy”, June 4”). As a Jew who attended a Zionist Modern Orthodox school, I am well aware of the assumptions and fears held by many Jews; that it is inconceivable that Israel is not acting morally (even if we do not understand the reasons for its actions); that we will be persecuted and oppressed if we do not hold onto the Jewish homeland tightly with both hands (no matter whom we suffocate in the process); and that the rest of the world doesn’t understand, and stubbornly refuses to see these truths.
I despair that this fear stops us loosening our grip on the status quo for even a moment, and truly internalising that we are helping to perpetuate the existence of the Palestinians under occupation and in poverty-stricken refugee camps. The status quo cannot continue no matter what we choose to believe. Either we embrace our futures together, or continue to defend these increasingly desperate and immoral actions until the world has finally had enough.
Nicole Erlich St Lucia (Qld)