A syndicated UPI story from Friday ("Unexploded Israeli bombs threaten Lebanese") covers the main issues:
"U.N. officials said it will take more than a year to clear out the estimated 1 million unexploded Israeli bomblets, The New York Times reported Friday. The Times said the bomblets outnumber the 650,000 people living in the southern Lebanon region where they are located. Unexploded cluster bombs had injured 109 people and killed 18 others as of Sept. 28, Lebanese officials said. The U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center in southern Lebanon said unexploded bombs have been found in 745 locations across the south and 4,500 of the estimated 1 million unexploded bombs have been disposed of. Israel has faced criticism from U.N. officials, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for using the cluster bombs, which are legal for use against military targets. However, the groups say the bombs are difficult to focus exclusively on military targets and can harm civilians. Israel has also been criticized for allegedly dropping most of the bombs in the final days of the conflict, while peace negotiations were ongoing."Dr Gerald Steinberg directs the Program on Conflict Management at Bar Ilan University and is the editor of www.ngo-monitor.org. He has some pungent comments -- better to describe them as home truths -- in response. They're not yet published, but probably will be by the time this blog item reaches you:
Self-Defence and the Rules of War - Gerald M. Steinberg
Jerusalem: In the recent Lebanon war, Israel was attacked with daily barrages of hundreds of rockets, launched indiscriminately by Hezbollah from trucks and other platforms located in towns, villages and fields. These weapons struck Israeli hospitals, schools, houses, workplaces, streets, and even civilians in their cars. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had the obligation to stop these deaths and injuries. In the effort to meet this requirement, the IDF used different tactics and weapons, including cluster bombs, which break into multiple sub-munitions in order to hit weapons, including rocket launchers whose precise location is unknown or changing.Whether or not it's possible or credible for anyone to state with accuracy (is there some way for them to know?) the number of unexploded bombs in Lebanon, it's an undisputed fact that the Hizbollah leadership states very proudly, very publicly that it holds an enormous arsenal of death. And that it is preparing to deploy it against Israel's civilian population again. In his widely-reported speech in Beirut on 21st September, Hizbollah chief Nassrallah rejected international calls to disarm his terrorist army, telling a huge "victory" rally his forces have more than 20,000 rockets pointed at Israel - five times more than the total number fired by Hizbollah into Israel during the war, and higher than any previous figure Nasrallah has given. "...There is no army in the world that can (force us) to drop our weapons from our hands, from our grip."
During and after the war, the United Nations Human Rights Council and powerful NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, condemned Israel repeatedly for using cluster bombs. The NGOs are running a campaign for a treaty to ban the use of these weapons, and has issued a barrage of press releases, reports and statements on the injuries caused to Lebanese by the remnants of these weapons. According to HRW, the US government heeded its demand to halt deliveries of these weapons to Israel during the war. On the surface, it would seem that the campaign on this issue was both morally justified and effective.
But a deeper examination of the issues shows fundamental flaws that undermine both the moral argument and NGO claim to a central role in negotiating arms limitation agreements.
Morally and logically, every nation under attack has the right to self-defense, and the rules of law, including various weapons bans that have been adopted, cannot result in greater slaughter of civilians. The first treaty banning the use of chemical weapons after the mass casualties of World War I was adopted in large part because they were also ineffective and did not fulfill any military objectives. Other agreements and prohibitions, such as those placed on aerial bombardment, were short-lived and largely ignored because of their military importance, both for offense and self-defense. The efforts to expand partial agreements on the prohibition of land mines have failed precisely because in many cases, no one has presented a better way to protect people, facilities, and nations from attack. Morally and tragically, in an environment of bitter conflict and terrorism, the use of land mines for security can be the lesser of the evils.
Similarly, in repeated condemnations of Israel for the use of cluster munitions, activist groups such as Amnesty and HRW failed to suggest a realistic and effective alternative against deadly rocket attacks. Although largely missing from HRW's campaigns, there is no question that morally, Hezbollah's arsenal of thousands of Syrian and Iranian-made rockets purposely used to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible constitutes the core violation of human rights and an obvious violation of international law. Massive Israeli ground and air attacks designed to find and destroy the rocket-launchers scattered throughout Southern Lebanon would have taken many more lives. This is the ugly calculus of war, and attempts to ignore this reality of human existence are both irrational and unethical.
In their campaign against Israeli use of cluster munitions, HRW and Amnesty are also coming with unclean hands and a not-so-hidden agenda. Officials from both played an active role in the infamous NGO forum of the 2001 Durban conference, which adopted a strategy to delegitimize the very existence of Israel. Their numerous publications and statements condemning Israeli responses to Palestinian terror far outnumbered the organization's reports condemning suicide bombings.
In this context, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth [not related to the authors of this blog], who clearly has no military expertise or experience, demanded that Israel arrest Palestinian terrorists in Gaza and Jenin, and bring them to trial – a policing approach, which, when attempted, often resulted in much greater violence. In the case of the cluster bomb campaign, HRW is not even suggesting an alternative.
These NGO officials have also used the millions of dollars at their disposal to join the political crusade against Israel's security barrier and in promoting dubious claims that fed boycott campaigns. The allegations in these reports were based on false or unverifiable claims of Palestinian "eyewitnesses" – a pattern repeated in by HRW and Amnesty during the Lebanon war. When Israel tried to use larger single-explosive weapons against Hezbollah rocket attacks, this was condemned as "indiscriminate force". Every Israeli defense is labeled as unacceptable.
HRW's central role in promoting international agreements to ban land mines is also tainted by a strong dose of anti-Israel propaganda. In a conference on this issue that took place in Geneva in 2000, in which I participated, HRW-funded participants from Palestinian, Egyptian, and other NGOs ignored the land mine issues and instead used this opportunity for unrelated Israel-bashing. The annual report on landmines distributed at the conference, and published by an HRW affiliate, featured a bogus cover photo related to Israel, and the chapters on Israel and the Palestinians included false or misleading information.
In contrast, those who are motivated by genuine humanitarian concerns must present workable alternatives in pursuing prohibitions on specific weapons, including cluster bombs. A treaty that effectively prevents nations and people under attack from acting in legitimate self-defense is worse than useless – it is also immoral.
HRW and Amnesty are presumably gearing up for a full-press media attack on his murderous plans. In your dreams.