a letter to not-so-dear pilots

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    A Letter to Not-So-Dear Pilots
    by Dr. Moshe Rosenblatt
    Sep 30, '03 / 4 Tishrei 5764

    [In response to the letter released this past week by a group of IAF pilots to Air Force Command declaring that they refuse to attack targets in the "territories".]

    My Not-So-Dear Pilots,

    In your letter to the prime minister (and Air Force command) at the start of the new year of 5764, you inform him and all of the people of Israel of your refusal to strike and eliminate Palestinian murderers of Jews out of concern that innocent Palestinian civilians will get hurt as well.

    Justifying your position, you raise three main claims: 1) it is illegal; 2) it is immoral; and 3) it is all because of our occupation of the territories.

    I am sorry to disappoint you, but those three claims are fundamentally unfounded. That is to say, Israeli targeted strikes are legal, moral and, in addition to that, Judea, Samaria and Gaza is Jewish land (according to United Nations decision) that was conquered by Arabs, and not the other way around.

    We shall begin with the legality of the action in question:

    The Geneva Convention requires combatants of all sides in an armed conflict to wear uniforms and to build military bases away from civilian centers. That is so that the opposing side will be able to distinguish between a combatant and a civilian in battle. But what is to be done when one side decides to disregard international law and fight from within population centers, while wearing civilian clothes?

    Well, enter any internet search engine and look for “The Fourth Geneva Convention” Part III Section I, Articles 28-29:


    “Signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949

    “Status and Treatment of Protected Persons
    “Section I. Provisions common to the Territories of the Parties to the Conflict and to Occupied Territories”


    “Art. 28. The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.

    “Art. 29. The Party to the conflict in whose hands protected persons may be, is responsible for the treatment accorded to them by its agents, irrespective of any individual responsibility which may be incurred.”

    In the case of combatants who take refuge within a civilian population, Article 28 stresses to them that the fact that they are hiding among civilians does not make their location immune to attack by the other side. Article 29 goes even further and declares that if civilians are in fact struck down, the fault for their deaths lies not with the attacker, but with the side hiding among them.

    In other words, the responsibility for the deaths of Palestinian civilians falls not on Israel’s shoulders, but on the shoulders of the terrorist organizations. At the same time, the government of Israel does have a legal obligation to protect the residents of the state of Israel.

    The Geneva Convention does not determine whether a one-ton bomb or a 250 kilogram bomb is to be used; that is a purely military decision. If we believe that in order to eliminate a planner/facilitator/practitioner of terrorist attacks upon us we need to use a one-ton bomb, the calculation of the number of collateral casualties is not for us to make, as the responsibility for their deaths does not fall upon us, but upon he who elected to hide among civilians.

    This is particularly true when we know that the vast majority of the potential collateral casualties are not “innocent civilians”, but rather civilians who provide the terrorists with support out of absolute identification with them.

    As for the matter of morality, I have no intention of explaining anything here; rather, I will only pose a few small questions to my not-so-dear, “moral” pilots. Tomorrow, when a terrorist that you failed to eliminate (due to your “morality”) slaughters a large number of Jews (either by his actions, support or planning), will not the responsibility for the deaths of those Jews (including women and children!) fall on your shoulders? And what will you feel if, among the murdered, are your own wives and children? What will you feel if you remain widowers and bereaved parents because of your “morality”? What will you say to those dearest to you when you go visit them in the cemetery? Are the lives of Arab mothers, who publicly boast of using their wombs as factories for future living bombs, preferable to the lives of your own wives, who seek to bring children into the world for the sake of love and good deeds? Did you consider these questions before you wrote your letter to the prime minister, my not-so-dear pilots?

    And as for the matter of “occupation”: Judea, Samaria and Gaza are territories that were given to the Jewish people at the self-same conference that awarded our neighbors sovereignty over the lands currently under their control - the 1920 San Remo Conference of the League of Nations. Due to the fact that our nation was unable to take control of a state at that time, the territory set aside for the state was handed over temporarily to the British (the British Mandate). Article 6 of that decision (from April 24, 1920) obligated the English to encourage and implement Jewish settlement in all the territory of the Mandate. It need not be pointed out that the Mandate included the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The Jews were also allowed to settle on the other side of the Jordan River; however, according to article 25 of the decision, England was allowed to put off Jewish settlement there until a later time.

    In 1945, when the United Nations was founded (to replace the League of Nations), it was decided that all previous decisions regarding national mandates would remain in force (see article 80 of Section 12 of the UN Charter, which is also easily available through any internet search engine). Therefore, the League of Nations decision “encouraging the close settlement by Jews on the land” throughout the Mandate was still in force under the UN mandate, according to UN resolution.

    It should be known that UN resolutions, including those of the Security Council, are based either on Chapter Six (which addresses peaceful conflict resolution between states) or Chapter Seven (which addresses the use of force in conflict resolution) of the UN Charter. All resolutions based on Chapter Six are strictly and only considered recommendations. In contrast, the resolutions based on Chapter Seven (such as the resolution calling on Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait) authorize the UN Security Council to use force to implement UN decisions. Since the foundation of the United Nations in 1945, all of the resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict (including the partition decision, as well as 242 and 338) fall under the sixth chapter. Therefore, all of the resolutions related to the Arab-Israeli conflict are merely recommendations and do not obligate either side.

    David Ben-Gurion, as is known, agreed to the partition. Had the Arabs similarly agreed, then it would have been possible to suggest that the San Remo resolutions were automatically voided. However, not only did the Arabs not agree to the partition, they even attacked us; seven Arab states attacked us, grossly violating UN resolutions. At the end of that war (the 1948 war of independence), the Arabs conquered the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, which were originally set aside for the Jewish people according to international decision. Thus, if it is possible to refer to anyone as an “occupier”, it is actually the Arabs and not us. The Jordanians occupied Samaria and Judea, and the Egyptians occupied Gaza.

    In the Six-Day War of 1967, then, we did not occupy lands of the Arabs, we returned to ourselves the lands that were a priori ours under law and according to international resolution.

    The resolutions of the 1920 Sen Remo Conference, which were reinforced by the UN Charter in 1945, are the only enforceable decisions on the matter at hand. And, as the San Remo Conference also decided on awarding sovereignty to other nations - such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq - and on their borders, should anyone claim that the San Remo decision regarding Israel’s borders be amended, then we have the right to demand renewed discussion of the borders of all the nations around us, based on the principle that all of the borders were fixed at the same conference. Reciprocity is the least we can demand.

    In addition, it is important to remember that there are no wars throughout the world that were caused by any underlying conflicts, but by the very existence of totalitarian regimes. Democratic leaders must make peace and bring economic prosperity, or else they will be kicked out of office in the next election. In contrast, dictators must make war, in order to justify their actions at home (which is a topic for a separate article). Thus, all of the world’s wars, to the last of them, have been between two dictatorships or between a dictatorship and a democracy. Democracies do not go to war with one another, no matter how serious the conflicts between them; it never happened in the past, and will never happen in the future.

    Furthermore, even if the Palestinians would be willing and able to become democrats, without the conversion of the rest of the Arab states to democracies, it will be impossible to make peace with them. When all of the region’s states become democracies, peace with them will be automatic, natural and come about of its own accord. The chance that such an event will take place, however, approaches zero. Therefore, there will be no peace with them, even if we give them our lands, the lands of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, or anything else they demand.

    In light of this, we will have to battle the Arabs, including the Palestinian “people”, forever - because of them and not because of us. And in those wars, so long as they hide among civilians and receive their support, their civilians will continue to die. No moral or legal responsibility falls on us because of that fact.

    And you, my not-so-dear pilots, go home and pray that your truly moral colleagues do not follow in your footsteps, and thus save you and your families from the next Palestinian killer.
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