4-24-02 - Background: Will UN claim gunmen should enjoy noncombatant status between shots?


Aaron Lerner Date: 24 April 2002

While some still believe that Israel can "pass" in the report of the UN appointed investigation team if the facts on the ground are properly presented and if the team is graphically reminded of the Palestinian terror Israel has suffered, there is good reason to believe that such efforts are doomed to failure.

This is because of the radical interpretation that some "human rights" advocates apply to the situation.

According to this radical interpretation, any Palestinian fighting in Jenin has the status of "civilian" as long as he is not acting at that time as part of the official security forces of the Palestinian Authority. This, by the way, is how B'Tselem inflates its figures of Palestinians "civilians" who have died in the conflict.

These "human rights" advocates do not deny that Israel has the right to defend itself even from civilian combatants actively engaged in combat against Israeli forces.

But the radical definition of "actively engaged" is extremely tight:

A "civilian" holding a bomb or aiming a rifle is a "noncombatant" unless there is absolute certainty that he is about to throw the bomb or fire the rifle.

Even if the "civilian" threw a bomb or shot off a round of bullets a minute ago this does not prove that the "civilian" will repeat the act. He may have run out of bullets. He may have changed his mind.

Simply put, under the radical interpretation, an IDF sharpshooter may open fire on a Palestinian gunman if he is certain that the gunman still has bullets and sees that he is squeezing the trigger. Open fire any other time and you may find yourself facing war crimes charges.

It goes without saying that this radical interpretation requires total protection from harm for "noncombatants" who stand in the line of fire between IDF forces and Palestinian gunmen to shield the gunmen.

But won't the world laugh at a report that exclusively applies these unworkable rules to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

No. Because the "world" won't read the report - only the headline. And if the headline reads that Israel violated the rules that is the only thing people will remember. That is the line that will be repeated over and over and over again in the media and in international conferences and forums as the anti-Israel machine plows forward towards sanctions and the International Court.