Thursday, August 5, 2010

Human Rights and Other Human Rights

Michaelle Sieff has a very interesting discussion about how to use human rights when evaluating Israel's war with Hamas. Do we see the return of common decency to a field that was originally predicated on it before it lost its soul?


Sylvia said...

My impression is that we're soon going to witness a more measured, less violent rhetoric from certain quarters.

The website of an NIF-sponsored bloggers conference was attacked this morning. Silverstein's was repeatedly attacked the end of last week.

Gavin said...

I find articles like hers extremely frustrating. She's almost grasped it... but ends up chasing the rainbow & never catching it.

The Goldstone Report did not use the laws of war to assess Israel’s actions in Gaza. The Goldstone report used the laws of occupation to condemn Israel's actions. There is such a fundamental distinction between the laws of war and the laws of occupation and yet no-one on the Israel side seems to be able to see it. They almost make it like Michelle Sieff there... and fade away at the finishing post.

I can predict with about a 95% certainty exactly how the UN flotilla enquiry is going to progress and it is very frustrating because Israel will almost certainly walk right into a trap that can most probably be averted if they would just wake up and smell the coffee.


Anonymous said...

I'll read Sieff's piece later on.

but yesterday I read this piece by David Rieff on NGO-financing
- I wonder how much of it applies to NIF
- after all tax exemptions are government subsidies also
- and consequently I wonder how much pressure could be exerted from that place
- as Rieff is Susan Sontag's son I think his basic pro-NGO-credentials must be beyond suspicion


Anonymous said...

OT but in my mind shouldn't be missed:

Michael Totten has another one of his lengthy interviews up which are worth any minute I spent reading them and this one is, if possible, even better than usual (I like the image of bubbles very much)


NormanF said...

I don't see any good coming out of the UN flotilla incident, especially now that Israel's short-sighted leaders have given the UN the rope to hang them with. I will be surprised if the Palmer investigation vindicates Israel.

Anonymous said...

No matter what Israel does or says or how she behaves "they" will do whatever it takes to whitewash the Turks
- to prevent them from going too far in that endeavour may be worth any effort, but believing that there may be any other outcome through any super-strategy/tactic whatsoever is completely futile.

- look at a map, better still a globe and you see why

Constantinople/Byzantium/Istanbul hasn't had such a place of eminence in the world for 1800 years for nothing whereupon I once saw a flowing map over the millenia of Israel's region which made me feel dizzy

my take is that it might be smart to put a stopper a dam into such a volatile area and that Israel would be the ideal place for that and so I think the whole "west" should place at least one aircraft carrier each in the waters there to make that point

but that's of course only dumb me


Empress Trudy said...

I have a hard time worrying about what the mincing drones of The Forward think. They would thank the firing squad for using a recycled blindfold.

Aaron said...

I'm always amused at Israelis' faith in some "true" human rights doctrine that "lost its soul". Under this "true" doctrine, circa 1950, everything was fine. What we have now is supposedly some kind of unpredictable perversion of an ideology based on "common decency".

It reminds me of those victims of the Communist show trials who never lost their faith in the Party: "Surely this is a mistake, it must be some bad elements who are behind this. If the Party leadership knew about this..."

Israelis need to give up their illusions. What we have now isn't a perversion of mid-twentieth-century human rights ideology, it's a logical and predictable extension of an abstract and inherently polemic ideology. The whole edifice is rotten, as some political-legal theorists realized and explained quite clearly at the time. Human rights will always be used as a political weapon. Israelis need to stop putting their faith in illusions.

Anonymous said...

and just in case Vilnius is close to somebody's heart

I found it a bit strange that at the beginning he said he based his talk mostly on Valentina Brio's book (Israeli Jew) and then has just a little less than two thirds of one page (12) to say about Jews in Vilnius plus two other mentions in the text.


Anonymous said...

Sieff didn't impress me much, for one because this
me that anybody claiming that there is any law that crosses borders and is applicable the same everywhere has gotten something wrong. If I didn't misunderstand Christopher Greenwood any international law is applicable only in a combination with the local laws of the state(s) involved. It sounded all as extremely complicated as I've always imagined it to be, but as I said anybody who talks to me about int'l law as if that were a defined or definable thing in the category of German patent law will lose me with that.

Second I remember a piece by Christopher Hitchens claiming that Amnesty lost its innocence when it broaden its field of operations from the clearly defined and definable goal of action in favour of single persons (or organisation) to by now probably any injustice there is on earth. I think he made a similar point about HRW but don't remember more.


Anonymous said...

oops sorry I got carried away by my ability to create my first "real" link - the one in the text and the "long" one are identical


Gavin said...

Norman. It depends, I'm pessimistic but still hopeful. There is an opportunity here, Israel needs to take it. The predictable path is that the UN enquiry will rule the blockade is a form of collective punishment by the occupying power and therefore illegal under the 4th Geneva Convention. On that basis the actions of Israel re the flotilla are tantamout to war crimes because the blockade is a war crime.

I can predict that from the simple fact that the UN consider Gaza to be occupied territory. It's pretty hard to miss, they refer to 'the occupied territory' in just about every statement they make about Gaza. If Gaza is occupied then the blockade was (legally) collective punishment... no real question of that.

I'm fearful that Israel will approach it with their usual stubbornness and refuse to accept that the UN are making the rules on this enquiry. Israel have to play to those rules, it's not a matter of right & wrong it's plain pragmatism. If Israel do play the game there is a lot they can do to avoid a bad conclusion.

Geoffrey Palmer is a lawyer rather than an ex Prime Minister. For as long as I can remember he's headed our crown law office and drafted a lot of our legislation, he hasn't been in politics for nearly 20yrs. I'm hoping he doesn't see this as an opportunity to get a flash job working for the UN drafting internatiional laws but it's possible.


Barry Meislin said...

But of course they change the rules as they go along.

To bash Israel, everything goes---even breaking your own rules.

But don't believe me: Here's Peter Berkowitz on the dubious (not to mention, wrong-headed) legality of the "Goldstone Report", which is so enthusiastic about the need to slander the Jewish State, that it is willing to forego its own mandate and to break its own rules.

(And it's a most energetic and contagious enthusiasm.)

One must add, however, that it's dubious only in a real-world sense. Since, when it comes to bashing Israel---everything is legal and correct (even when it's not), the Goldstone Report is the very essence of truth and rightness, even when it is replete with lies and misrepresentations.

Bashing Israel = TRUTH!

(And maybe that's the real world?)

Gavin said...

They don't change the rules Barry, they've been using the same tactic for the last ten years at least. They use occupation law to frame Israel for crimes it didn't commit. The UN will have instructed the Flotilla Enquiry group to use occupation law as their source legal references. It's obvious for Pete's sake. Israels enemies at the UN can't afford to have Palmer et-al concluding in their report that Gaza is not occupied... if they did 90% of the Goldstone report would collapse into dust and they've just appointed another enquiry to follow up on that.

I don't know why I persevere with this. I show people wood and all everyone can see is trees.


Anonymous said...


please persist!!!

you are right to "complain" as I for one am too willing to see Catch 22s at the expense of overlooking loopholes that may exist.

however, I see so many pitfalls in deciding for Gaza on one status or the other that I guess that the in-between it is now may be the best to be had - twilight has its possibilities also.

For one I firmly believe that int'l lawyerdom with or without the UN, if they decide to do so, will find a way to get at Israel, and even possibly more easily so, if they can get hold of an undisputable fact.

It is a lot easier to play Gotcha with somebody who has a clear contour.

Oh and I disagree, they'll change the rules as soon as it'll suit them - I've worked long enough for lawyers that changing rules is their preferred pastime.


we live in a world of idiots, this is what the London Times has on Cameron today (sub.req.) - I mean, if the stuff he says are gaffes then they allow us at least to guess how his private circle chatters and you think reasonable will bring any advantage with ... like that?

"David Cameron waved aside Foreign and Commonwealth Office objections to his description of Gaza as a prison camp"