As Israel goes deeper into Gaza, and intensifies its bombardment of Hamas in Gaza City, a chorus is beginning to be heard: Israel is now committing war crimes; the conditions of the people there constitute a humanitarian crisis; the only solution is negotiations with Hamas for a cease-fire that will give Gaza’s beleaguered and innocent population breathing space to begin rebuilding its shattered city.
As awful as the situation in Gaza is, an important point was made today by law professor Irwin Cotler of McGill University. Cotler shows that Hamas is violating six different provisions of established international law: deliberate targeting of civilians; attacking with rockets from within civilian areas; abusing humanitarian instruments to launch attacks, such as using ambulances to transport weapons; public incitement to genocide; and the recruitment of children into armed conflict.
Cotler’s main point: The situation in Gaza is tragic, but ”there has to be a moral and legal clarity as to responsibility. When Israel responds and civilians are killed because Israel is targeting an area from which rockets were launched, then it is Hamas which bears responsibility for the deaths, and not Israel.”
Despite Hamas’ actions, foreign policy experts like Richard N. Haass, president of The Council Foreign Relations, believes that diplomats can easily reach an agreement. As he sees it, the final outcome is clear: “Hamas will agree to stop firing rockets into Israel; the Israelis will pull back their forces from Gaza.” It all seems so doable to Haass. All it takes, he thinks, is to learn the lessons of the agreement in Northern Ireland that led the IRA to give up armed struggle and work within the political system. It worked, according to Haass, because the British Army convinced the IRA that it could not “shoot its way into power.” And British diplomats showed the minority Catholics that they could get a fair deal by renouncing arms and embracing politics.