Thanks to Susan for forwarding this extremely interesting op-ed piece by Neil MacDonald published by the Canadian Broadcasting Company. In “Defining ‘terrorism’ is harder than you’d think”, he states that the concept of reciprocity is never taken into account. He mentions the blurry line dividing States who engage in actions which provoke terror and fear in civilian populations from non-States who do the same thing.
“When states target civilians or use military force with wanton disregard for civilian populations, it is a war crime. There is black-letter law against it. The UN report points that out, and suggests that an international definition of terrorism might be more acceptable if it contained “recognition … that State use of force against civilians … if of sufficient scale, constitutes a war crime by the persons concerned or a crime against humanity.”
The trouble is that such wording would be hollow, and everyone knows it. War crimes are almost never actionable. Powerful nations have seen to that. There are only two specific tribunals at the moment set up to deal with war crimes: the Arusha tribunal, to deal with the genocide in Rwanda, and the tribunal in The Hague dealing with the Yugoslavian civil war.
The International Criminal Court itself is not empowered to act against states that have elected not to participate. And several have done just that. The United States, for example. It is also a safe bet that the five real powers at the UN – the U.S., France, Russia, China and Great Britain – are never going to agree to an anti-terrorism strategy that might eventually condemn their military tactics or those of their client states. And, of course, as long as states can evade responsibility for war crimes, “non-state actors,” as the UN labels groups like al-Qaeda, will be able to claim they are merely doing what governments the world over do.
The second argument standing in the way of an international definition of terror, says the UN, “is that peoples under foreign occupation have a right to resistance and a definition of terrorism should not override this right.” What the report is talking about here, although it avoids naming names, is Israel. That second argument is the argument of the Palestinians, who have for decades waged diplomatic war with Israel at the UN, with the majority of member states taking their side.
The UN report suggests finally taking a stand against that sort of thinking: “there is nothing in the fact of occupation that justifies the targeting and killing of civilians.” Which would seem a simple enough truth. (Although one suspects that if Texas were occupied by a foreign power, its citizens would pull out their guns and start shooting at any enemy target that presented itself, civilian or not).
But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not as easy to characterize as the UN report might wish. The Israeli soldiers who enforce the occupation kill a great many Palestinian civilians. If Palestinians have committed terror, the Israelis have certainly committed war crimes.”
Well, there’s some follow up to that op-ed. Read the piece in B’nai Brith Canada’s website, excerpted below:
“When HRC (Honesty in Reporting Canada) contacted the Middle East Institute, (someone MacDonald interviewed on a previous occasion) it was told the Institute’s funding comes primarily from the following sources: Abdul Latif Jameel Corporation in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Chevron Texaco; Conoco Phillips; Exxon; Raytheon; Saudi Aramco and Shell International. (In May, Macdonald’s story on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses quoted a known anti-Israel lobbyist who falsely implicated Israeli agents in the affair.)
Smith, HRC’s executive director, said the group asked its membership to petition the CBC to drop Macdonald from The National for his obvious and repeated anti-Israel bias. The action call generated “the most intense, well-articulated and intelligent” letter-writing campaign in HRC’s history, Smith said.
He said, “People have really thought about this and many writers specifically pointed out that they aren’t even Jewish.
“We take pains to avoid extreme positions, but in cases of obvious bias, we feel that there is no other choice but to ask news organizations to drop the offenders.”
After Macdonald’s May report, Tony Burman had said “. . . we have modified our editorial processes and procedures to ensure that this situation is never repeated.”
Bazay found that while he did not find Macdonald guilty of bias, “Under CBC journalism policy reporters, editors and producers must not only avoid bias; they must avoid the appearance of bias.”
Now it’s your turn to call the shots: If you agree that Neil Macdonald’s reporting is valuable, please send a note of support/appreciation to the CBC:
Here is a sample letter:
I wish to express my esteem and support for Neil MacDonald, whose articulate and measured analysis of the relationship between war crimes and other beligerant actions undertaken by non-State entities which can run the gamut between terrorism (to be condemned, and which he obviously does not approve of) and resistance (which is a right guaranteed to all occupied peoples by UN Charters and International Conventions) is an example of excellent editorial journalism.
Please do not be influenced by pressure groups who seek to silence this journalist.