Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Illegal According to International Law"

Haaretz tells (yesterday) that the top lawyers of the IDF feel that the use of cluster bombs in Lebanon during last year's war was legal (and the kind of thing that other Western armies also do).

As I've explained in the past, I'm not much of a fan of international law as it's commonly used these days. This story, however, emphasizes the extent to which the name of international law is used in vain. Journalists, politicians and activists, mostly with no legal training, regularly pontificate on how many of Israel's actions are illegal according to international law, quite disregarding the fact that in any normal legal system what is or isn't legal is often disputed by lawyers and decided by courts, and the art of finding and closing loopholes is at the center of the legal practice. Here we have a bunch of lawyers arguing the case for their client (the IDF), and the only possible way to answer them is by using the same legal tools - which most pundits couldn't do if their life depended on it. Fortunately for them, their life doesn't depend on it, and not even their livelihood, since their editors and readers aren't interested in the legal aspects, only in the political ones. International law is cited because it sounds impressive, not because it's understood.

No comments: