The Holocaust, the Fiction of International Law, and the Necessity of a Self-Reliant Israel

Nov. 29 2018

A recent article about the Kindertransport—the rescue by Great Britain of some 10,000 Jewish children from Germany and Austria on the eve of World War II—noted that any celebration of British generosity must be tempered by the facts that London did not allow Jewish adults into the country and, at the same time, barred Jewish immigration to Palestine. In other words, writes Haviv Rettig Gur, Britain, despite this singular act of heroism, is also “responsible for the orphaning of the very children it saved, and in no small part for the trap European Jews were placed in as the Nazi grip tightened.” He draws some enduring lessons for the Jewish people and the state of Israel:

[T]his history matters, today, perhaps, more than ever. There is an inevitable corollary to the rule of universal indifference that is Britain’s true legacy from that period: . . . Jews can only rely on themselves when the danger comes. When we relinquish control over our own fate, we fall. . . . No liberal world order, no example of momentary kindness, however central it may be to some other nation’s narrative of itself, will, in the end, save us from the flames.

Israel is powerful. But Israel is also small. It may one day not be quite so powerful. It has too many enemies, and too many of them are ideological radicals and tyrannical brutes, for it to find consolation in its current power. If you want to understand why we [Israelis] seem inexplicably obsessed with our vulnerability even as we continue to advance in capabilities and achievements far beyond those of our enemies, look no farther than the very act of kindness so celebrated in the West as an example of a world that cares for the weak. Look closer. It is in equal measure an example of the self-adulation, paternalism, and indifference of the strong. . . .

In an important sense, the relatively new and equally paternalistic edifice of international law, forged in the ashes of the Holocaust, is a similar fiction, propped up by sanctimonious self-edifying illusions like the Kindertransport narrative. It is a moral code upheld by a narrow transnational elite whose sense of self seems unaffected by half a million dead Syrians, a million dead Rwandans, Bosnians, Yazidis, and so on. It is a law of convenience, a law meant to serve the moral self-esteem of the strong. . . .

It is no accident that Israel is a bigger target of international legal attention than the world’s great powers, that the Palestinian question exercises the moral imagination of the strong more than all the depravations and callousness of China, Russia, or even Britain or America on the world stage. . . . Ironically, the hollowness of this paternalistic fiction is rendered even starker when one looks at it from the Palestinian side. Given the massive attention lavished on the Palestinians and their sufferings, it is remarkable how little headway this attention has won for the Palestinian cause. What can the Palestinians show for all the decades their cause has spent perched at the top of the agenda of the international liberal order? The irony is even more striking when one realizes that the world’s weakness in coming to the Palestinians’ aid is as compelling a piece of evidence as any ever offered for Israelis’ longstanding distrust of the international community as protector, and therefore as moral arbiter of a small nation’s security policies.

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Hizballah Prepares for War, and UN Peacekeepers Do Nothing

Dec. 10 2018

According to last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 2373, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)—the peacekeeping force created after the Second Lebanon War to keep both Israel and Hizballah out of southern Lebanon—is authorized “to take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces, and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.” If anything ought to rouse UNIFIL to action, writes Elliott Abrams, it should be the IDF’s recent discovery and destruction of tunnels dug by Hizballah to move troops into the Galilee:

The existence of these tunnels, dug from precisely the area of southern Lebanon that UNIFIL is meant to patrol, means that this area is indeed “utilized for hostile activities.” What, then, is the meaning of [UNIFIL’s statement in] response that it “will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon”? The meaning is that UNIFIL will likely do nothing.

UNIFIL is not supposed to be merely a means of communication, or the Security Council would have bought cell phones instead of paying for a military force. Moreover, there are no “appropriate authorities” in Lebanon; if there were, Hizballah would never have been able to dig its tunnels.

The tunnels are hardly the only brazen Hizballah violation of the Security Council resolutions undertaken right under UNIFIL’s nose. Consider this: Hizballah is blocking roads in southern Lebanon to smooth the path of missiles it is moving into the area. . . . Then there is the village of Gila, just north of the Israeli border, where there is a Hizballah headquarters and according to the Israelis about twenty warehouses with weapons, combat positions, lookout points, and dozens of underground positions. All this was built in an area supposedly patrolled by UNIFIL. . . .

This is a test of UNIFIL and its new commander, [Stefan Del Col, who took over in August]. “Communicating” to “appropriate authorities” is a euphemism for doing nothing at all. Hizballah is preparing for war. UNIFIL is supposed to get in its way. If it cannot hinder Hizballah’s war preparations in any way, and is even ignorant of them, UNIFIL is a waste of time and money.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, United Nations