Following my article in last week’s Australian Financial Review on Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, the following letter appears today in the paper:
It is ironic that Antony Loewenstein’s piece “Israel must pay for crimes” (January 30) is in the Legal Affairs section, as it shows a complete lack of understanding of international law.
It is undeniable that Hamas was committing war crimes in firing rockets at Israeli civilians, and that Israel was entitled to stop them. Israel was then, under international law, entitled to do what was necessary and reasonable to achieve this, including targeting those firing the rockets, the rockets and launchers themselves and the tunnels used to smuggle them in.
Even if the fighters and rockets were hidden among civilians, or in public buildings such as schools and mosques, Israel was still entitled to target them. Israel did try to minimise civilian casualties by warning civilians to leave houses that were about to be bombed, even though that also warned the terrorists. Also, the use of white phosphorus of itself is not illegal, and Israel denies having used it against civilians.
There were war crimes committed against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, but they were committed by Hamas. Under international law, hiding fighters and weapons among civilians is known as perfidy, and the party committing the offence is the one responsible for all ensuing damage and casualties.
Sadly Loewenstein’s concern is limited to Israel’s supposed crimes rather than Hamas’s actual offences.
Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council
South Melbourne Vic