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"Five axiomatic propositions of Canadian Nationalism vis-a-vis the Americans:

1. Boy, we hate Americans.

2. We really do.

3. Really.

4. I'm not kidding. We really hate them.

5. So how come they never pay us any attention?"

--Will Ferguson, Why I Hate Canadians, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1997, p.105.


Monday, April 22, 2002

Al-Qaeda intended to attack a European shopping district? This article describes an attempt to bomb a major shopping district in Strasbourg, Germany, aroun Christmastime, 2000. Nabbed perhaps a few days before carrying out the operation, five terrorist-wanabees are now defendants in German courts. Bonus bit: three of the participants used Britain as their HQ; French intelligence agents slam Britain for being a "revolving door" for terrorists.
Just give us some time -- we'll figure out what we really meant by "war crime." Remember the massacre at Jenin? Here's what the Observer has to say about it now:

But a massacre - in the sense it is usually understood - did not take place in Jenin's refugee camp.

Whatever crimes were committed here - and it appears there were many - a deliberate and calculated massacre of civilians by the Israeli army was not among them....

For even as the hunt for the bodies goes on, it is increasingly clear from evidence collected by this paper and other journalists, that the majority of those so far recovered have been Palestinian fighters from Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the al-Aqsa Brigades.

Certainly, civilians died. But so far they are in the minority of those who perished.

So that must mean the allegations of Israeli atrocities are false, right? Well, not exactly. You see, now:

For at heart of the question of whether Jenin was a war crime are not the bodies stacked at the main hospital. It is what happened to the homes of those like Talib [NB: a 70-year-old resident introduced in a previous paragraph].

Huh? A massacre of houses? Let's go back up to the earlier part of the article:

One thing, however, is beyond question: that the soldiers of Israel carried out an act of ferocious destruction, unparallelled in Israel's short history, against an area of civilian concentration where Palestinian fighters were based.

And what will settle whether what happened in Jenin camp was a war crime is the relationship between those civilians and the Palestinian fighters.

For increasingly at issue is a simple distinction. If the refugee camp at Jenin was a population centre that simply harboured fighters - that had fighters in its midst - then, say human rights advocates, Israel had a duty of care during its attack towards the civilians resident there under international law.

But if Jenin camp could be proved to be something else, say lawyers for the army, the Geneva Convention might not apply.

Already Israel is working hard to define why the destruction in Jenin was something 'other' - exempt from the Convention.

It is that something 'other' that Israeli legal sources advising the army are desperately now trying to establish in international opinion. The refugee camp at Jenin, they say, had become an 'armed camp', booby-trapped and organised for fighting. It is a place, they argue, where the civilian population was effectively being held hostage under military orders. In those circumstances, the Israeli lawyers argue, the laws of war should not, and must not, apply.

Indeed. Presumably this interview in Al-Ahram with one of the fighters from Jenin who fled when ammo got low will help buttress the Israeli position. I'm still waiting for the Observer to acknowledge its existence.
A question of proportion. Last night I finally got sick of hearing various talking heads describe the Israeli incursion into the West Bank as a "disproportionate" response to Palestinian terror attacks. You know what? Maybe it is disproportionate. But if someone is going to criticize this action as being disproportionate, then we need to know what that someone considers "proportionate" before we can evaluate this criticism. Put differently, it's darned easy to moan about an excessive response; it's a lot harder to take a stand on what response would be non-excessive and yet still have an impact.

So I decided to write to a bunch of the folks who have publicly chided Israel for "disproportionate" action. Thus far I have written to:

1. Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA ("Certainly there is evidence of overwhelming and apparently disproportionate use of force, even if a battle was going on in Jenin camp.").

2. Francine Lalonde, Bloc Quebecois (BQ) member of Parliament in Canada and "foreign affairs critic" for the BQ (Question from National Post: "Have Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza been disproportionate?" Answer from Lalonde: "Yes, I think they have been disproportionate.").

3. Bill Graham, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Israel's current incursion into the West Bank is a "disproportionate" response).

Here's the email I have sent, with slight changes to the third paragraph for each:

Dear Mr. Graham:

I was intrigued by your recent statement, as reported in The Globe and Mail and the National Post, that Israel's current drive to secure the West Bank is a "disproportionate" response to recent terror attacks on Israel.

Could you provide any suggestions for what would have constituted a "proportionate" use of force in response to these attacks? I would be very grateful to learn what these would be, if you are willing to share them. Surely the Canadian Foreign Affairs Department wouldn't do anything as unproductive as offer criticism without having a constructive alternative in mind.

Thanks in advance for your response, and best of luck fighting the good fight regarding foreign policy and international trade.


I'll be sure to keep you posted of the responses. In the meantime, if anyone else finds an official quoted as decrying Israel's disproportionate response, please forward it to me and I'll churn out another email!

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