The United States invoked a “responsibility to protect” non-combatants from mass murder to support military action against Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in Libya. Norwegian parliamentarians then proposed action on the same grounds against Israel on behalf of Palestinian Arabs. Last week, the Arab League indicated it would ask the United Nations for a no-fly zone over the Gaza Strip.
A reprise of Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 “Operation Cast Lead” against Hamas in Gaza seems likely. Israeli leaders warn that renewed rocket attacks by Palestinian terrorists on Beersheva, Ashdod and other locales mean deterrence established by “Cast Lead” is eroding.
But armed intervention in Libya by that nebulous gathering called the international community, and its failure to act in other, more genocidal cases, ought to put the Jewish state on notice. The global “lawfare” campaign that hijacks international law to use it against Israel may reach critical mass with “R2P,” as policy wonks abbreviate responsibility to protect.
“R2P,” applied via the historical revisionism of “the Palestinian narrative,” could cripple Israeli defense. Samantha Power, senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights at the National Security Council, reportedly helped sway President Obama in favor of Libyan intervention.
Power is a Harvard professor who once urged deployment of American troops in Israel, not to protect Jews from Palestinian terrorists, but Arabs from Israeli reprisals. A former journalist in the war-torn Balkans, she won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for her book, “A Problem from Hell,” a study of governments’ failure to deal with 20th-century genocides.
Never mind that genocide is what Iranian leaders threaten Israel with. The loophole-filled international sanctions theater against Iran’s nuclear weapons program has yet to raise “responsibility to protect” on behalf of the Jewish state.
Israel has publicized a map showing nearly 1,000 Hezbollah sites, many for storage of missiles able to hit Israeli cities, in south Lebanon villages. These facilities often are near hospitals, schools and private homes. Such placement and possession violates international law and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, adopted after the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, which requires Hezbollah’s disarmament. “R2P” for Israeli civilians, anyone? The apparent omission of Jews from responsibility to protect imperatives was conspicuous in a 2009 report by, of all institutions, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the federally sponsored U.S. Institute of Peace. In conjunction with the American Academy of Diplomacy, USHMM and USIP issued the 174-page “Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers.” The study recalled the Nazi genocide of European Jewry and invoked the post-Holocaust assertion “Never Again!” It referred to mass murders in Kosovo, Rwanda, Darfur, and elsewhere. But it did not mention Iran’s threats against the Jewish state. “R2P” does not seem to apply to mass killings by Russia in Chechnya; the destruction of Tibetan peoplehood by China; North Korea’s murderous enslavement of its own people or in Syria or Yemen, among many other places.
But when it comes to Israeli self-defense, callers to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal already want to know, in the words of one caller, “If we’re bombing Libya to save civilians, why aren’t we attacking Israel to stop its slaughter of the Palestinians?”
Irony, obscenity or both? The World War II Allies established the United Nations to help prevent future world conflict leading to genocide like the Holocaust. The word genocide itself, meaning the murder of a people, was coined by a European Jewish lawyer and refugee from Nazism, Raphael Lemkin. But for decades the United Nations has been a font of anti-Israel lawfare.
Exceptions to R2P are more numerous than its application. Given the double standard toward the Jewish state, “the Libyan precedent” seems more likely to be invoked against Israeli self-defense than to safeguard its citizens.
Eric Rozenman is Washington director of CAMERA, the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
This article first appeared in the Washington Jewish Week.