Apr 12 2001

The Law of War

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

Is there a law for war? This was the way I have interrupted the various comments that friends of mine made this week.

It started at around noon on Monday. Arthur and Anderson auditors who have been working at our office get a call from their office saying that all the Ramallah staff have been told to go home. Some of our own staff get calls from friends with similar sentiment. The rumor is that the Israelis are planning to shell Ramallah indiscriminately. Two Israeli soldiers were killed near Betunia and one colleague rushes in saying that the Israelis are about to reoccupy Ramallah.

The rumors turn out to be just that. No Israelis soldiers were killed but all day the city was up in arms. Haron one of the best people at our television station wants to know if there was a way that we could have put an end to the rumor. Couldn’t we have asked some official to state for the record whether shelling was eminent or not? He asked. “How could anyone make such a statement for sure,” I asked. “Don’t the Israelis inform them before shelling a particular location.” Haron states in a matter of fact way.

Monday’s chaos is not new. It has happened before and will most likely happen again. Palestinians are confused and are looking for answers with few willing or able to respond.  Dina another colleague confided to me. Where is it going Daoud she asked? We had everything planned. My career is going well. I was going to get my MA, we were going to have another child and now this. If this is going to go on for a long time I will not allow my daughter to live through this terror. Dina refused statements like this is our fate. “It is not my fate, if I have opportunities to leave and live in a stable situation why should I stay here. Dina is very angry at the Israelis for the way they have terrorized the Palestinian population. I sit at home watching TV but my mind is worried that a bullet will penetrate into the back of my neck. I go to work and I am similarly worried about myself but I am petrified about my daughter and husband. I keep calling to make sure they are ok. Although blaming the Israelis for their violence, Dina wasn’t kind to the Palestinian leadership who she said must weigh the situation and prepare the public before deciding to get the population into a gamble like the one we are in. Although Dina would love to go and work in one of the Arab satellite television stations, her husband is adamant about staying in Palestine and weathering the situation out.

While Haron and Dina would like to see a political and security solution to the conflict, what they are hoping for at the present is some form of predictability to the situation. Which brings us back to the question of this article. Is there a way to make a military confrontation livable? A law of war seems like a contradiction of terms but it is impossible to believe that all the good will that has existed for years can’t find a way to directly or indirectly allow Palestinians and Israelis to agree on some basics.

The Geneva Conventions were agreed upon specifically for situation like the ones in which civilians are caught in a war situation. If the present cycle of violence continues any longer, some uniformed internationally accepted agreement should be reached. Commitment to such agreement will need to be adhered to and violators must be condemned by the international community.

Palestinians and Israelis, for example, can agree to keep road open to allow health and medical supplies flowing. Electricity and energy needs ought to be out off limits. Both sides can agree to spare civilians from attack and collective punishment through siege and travel restrictions.

War is not a predictable situation. Until peace (whether hot of cold) arrives the lives of three million Palestinians and many Israelis can’t be left up to extremists and military officials. The situation requires people of goodwill to get involved to guarantee the victimized people some basic rights that can provide them with physical and psychological security.

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