Friday, August 19, 2005

The Grand Blog Debate

Here's how it works:

Naphtuli and I have agreed to debate the following proposition: During the past years, Israel has assassinated top leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, each time without going through the official criminal procedures. Should Israel be carrying out such a policy?

Nephtuli has argued the affirmative (I and II.) I will argue the negative.

We've also agreed to keep this as formal as possible. Naftali has already made his argument. After I've made my own argument, (below) we'll each rebut the other's original argument. No new information or arguments may be provided in a rebutal. I have not yet read Naphtuli's argument, and my argument is not meant to be a response to anything he has written. That will come in the rebuttal.

You're welcome to play along in the comment section. Also, if you'd like to propose a debate topic, or challenge either of us to another round of argument, please do so by email.

Here we go:

I object to the Israeli policy of assasinating terrorists because it is (1) counterproductive; (2) illegal; (3) dangerous; and (4) useless.

Counterproductive: The assassinations have not slowed the pace of suicide bombings but have instead radicalized Palestinians, encouraging even more to back violence against Israelis. By responding to lawlessness and violence with more lawlessness and violence, Israel has invited the Palestinians to respond in kind, resulting in even more Israeli casualties. It was not until the Security Fence was put in place, that instances of terror abated.

Worse yet, Israel is executing people without charging them with having committed a specific crime; without furnishing any evidence as to their guilt and without the due process of a free and fair trial. When you arrest a criminal and formally present evidence against him, your justice system acquires credibility because it becomes obvious to everyone that you are preceding with integrity and a commitment to fair-play. Israel policy of extra judicial killings produces the opposite result: With no indictment, and no public presentation of evidence, it becomes too easy for Israel’s enemies to argue that wrong man was assassinated or that he was assassinated for the wrong reason. By doing away with the criminal justice system, Israel is playing directly into the hands of people who wish to convince their followers that Israel is unjust and immoral. This seriously undermines Israel's claim to being a democratic state based on the rule of law. How can Israel claim to be morally superior to the Palestinians if they both play by the same rules?

Illegal: Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinians is illegal according to both Israeli law and international law. There is no death penalty in Israel, yet the policy of extrajudicial killings unlawfully circumvents this.

The policy is also in clear violation of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, to which Israel is a High Contracting Party. Article 3(d) of this Geneva Convention prohibits at any time and in any place "the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

Also, there is a very real risk of collateral damage. When Israel sends a missile through a window, other people in the building and on the street are put at risk and often killed. The killing of innocent non-combatant violates international norms and laws.

Finally, the policy violates U.S. law by employing U.S.-supplied weaponry, including Apache helicopters, in a manner which is proscribed by the U.S. Foreign Assistance and Arms Export Control Acts. United States law stipulates that any defense articles and defense services to any country shall be furnished "solely for internal security or for legitimate self-defense" (22U.S.C. 2302 and 2754). Israel's policy of extrajudicial killings, designed to eliminate religious and political leaders, hardly qualifies.

Dangerous I call the policy dangerous, because it invites abuse. Currently, Israeli troops execute Palestinians militants on the say-so of a commander in the field. But how can we be sure that the commander isn’t abusing his power? How can we be sure he isn’t carrying out a petty grudge? The rule of law is valuable because it protects against the capriciousness of one person. Worse, if society grants a military commanders the right to act as judge, jury and executioner, what’s keeping society from one day giving police commanders the same power on the streets of Tel Aviv? By arguing for the judicial protection of Arabs, I am also arguing for the judicial protection of Israelis.

Useless The strongest argument against the policy of extrajudicial assassinations is that they don’t work. There is no compelling evidence the killings are effective in reducing the terror menace. So given the serious concerns outlined above, why bother?