Briefing by Alan Baker, Foreign Minister Legal Advisor – April 3, 2002
The viewpoint I will give will be to a certain point legalistic, but what we are
dealing with in carrying out a campaign against terror is something which is
fraught with legal aspects, because first and foremost terrorism is prohibited in
It doesn’t matter what the reason is, doesn’t matter what the cause is,
international law prohibits any type of terror. There are ways of solving
international problems, there are ways of dealing with questions that come up,
complaints that come up, but international law prohibits in every manner the
use of terror to solve international problems.
We have seen this in Security Council resolutions and there are several,
9 or 10, international conventions prohibiting all the various components of
terror. Whether it is terrorist bombings, terrorist financing or whether it’s any
other aspect of terror, in the air, on the sea or anywhere else.
For instance, this letter that was discovered yesterday asking Arafat to finance
the various components of the explosive belts for the suicide bombers, this is
financing terror. This is specifically prohibited in the most recent Security
Council resolution adopted after the Sept. 11 bombings in New York in which
all states, members of the UN were asked to do everything possible to stop
financing terrorism to prevent all the various routes by which monies are
Coming onto the suicide bombings themselves – this is a component of
terrorism. The fact that these suicide bombers include, within the actual belts,
ball bearings and nails and screws and sharpened pieces of iron, this in itself,
without any other context is a very serious violation of all the norms of
humanitarian law in the Hague Rules of 1899, those of 1907, and the Geneva
Conventions. The use of this type of material to inflict superfluous and
unnecessary suffering is simply the most blatant violation of any humanitarian
The use of children – it’s a crime according to international law. It’s detailed in
the new international criminal court document as a very serious crime. Children
under the age of 17, under the age of 15, using children in any way
whatsoever, whether by sending them to commit suicide and blow themselves
up or simply using them to hide behind them in order to shoot is something
which is forbidden.
Crime against humanity – is defined in international law as a crime committed as
part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with
knowledge of the attack intentionally causing great suffering. By sending
suicide bombers to attack restaurants, synagogues, bar mitzvahs, weddings or
whatever – basically this is a form of a weapon of mass destruction. Its nothing
more and nothing less and it should be treated as such. It’s a weapon of
Now, this whole thing that we are seeing over the last few days, the sheltering
behind the civilian population, whether by entering into churches, bringing arms
into churches, and I understand that what I have just heard is that in the
Church of the Nativity there are 200 armed Tanzim people. The use of
ambulances to carry weapons underneath people who are lying on stretchers,
the use of hospitals, placing weapons next to schools or behind schools, or
within civilian residential areas in high-rise buildings, this is perfidy. This is the
use of civilian day-to-day articles in order to carry out active terror. This again
is something which goes against any moral, normal humane concept of carrying
out or striving to solve ones’ problems.
The use of the international media to spread false rumors, to create public
hysteria in order to influence the situation on the ground. This whole concept of
the glorification of terror, what we find in Scandinavia, people demonstrating,
wearing the clothes of suicide bombers, all these things, the glorification of
terror is something which is, again, part and parcel something which is an
antithesis to what we are seeing in the international community.
This campaign against terror — Therefore it is all the more strange that here, in
this corner of the world, where we are conducting a campaign striking against
terror, not because we want to harm the Palestinian people, as one of the
officials who for the last 11 – 12 years has been negotiating with the
Palestinians, its very frustrating for me personally to see this thing that we have
built, this pyramid of a series of agreements, which is just crumbling down.
Because the basic commitments in these agreements, the undertaking by the
Palestinians to fight terrorism, to bring to trial terrorists, and to cancel
completely any kind of incitement, is being blatantly violated.
But, however, these commitments still exist, these agreements are still in force
and therefore our basic position is that once it is possible to get rid of this
element of terror – to do what Arafat undertook to do and has blatantly failed to
do or he is not prepared to do. Once we can solve this aspect, then there is
absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be possible to get back to the framework
in which it will be possible to continue negotiations.
I’d just like to say a few words now about what is happening in the North
because this, again, its part and parcel of another legal framework. The legal
framework which was established by the UN in resolution 425 from 1978
which called for three things to be done.
- Israel to withdraw from
- the UN to assist Lebanon to establish its authority in
the area from which Israel withdraws.
- and the UN to assist the parties to
restore international peace and security.
Now, Israel has withdrawn. Every inch that we were supposed to withdraw
from according to the line determined by the UN. This has been acknowledged
by the Security Council and by the Secretary General. The Lebanese
government has not yet carried out their side and hasn’t brought their own
governmental authorities into the area from which Israel withdrew and hence
the Hizbullah is there – the only authority in the area in Southern Lebanon, and
the question of peace and security still remains open. And as we have seen the
Hizbullah are opening fire and threatening to bring this front back into an active
We have no doubts as to the responsibility and the involvement of Syria in all
this and we are hence very concerned and very worried. And the Foreign
Minister is so worried that he invited, yesterday, the representative of the UN
Terje Larsen and asked him to pass a message on to the Syrians and to the
Lebanese that they must stop this, because we won’t suffer any attempt to
turn this line between Israel and Lebanon once again into a line of violence.
Israel is very conscious of its obligations according to international law. We are
a democratic country. We are a country where the rule of law is something that
is recognized and we are a leading country of the world in this regard. It hurts
us very much when we are placed in a situation, for instance, where people are
finding shelter in a church, which they are perfectly entitled to do, but they
take 200 weapons into a church as well. This places us in a very difficult
position. This is an abuse of our own respect of human rights and humanitarian
law and it places us in a very difficult position.
We will observe our obligations and in any event, in all aspects of this
strike against terror. What we are trying to do is to maintain the high standards
of humanitarian activity. Any problems in this respect, any soldier or any one
that perhaps might not be observing this, then Israeli law provides all the
procedures to examine this and to deal with this. We don’t go in for killing, we
don’t go in for any activities which are not justified by the international law’s
right to self defense and what is provided for in the international instruments
with respect to humanitarian issues.