International law today paralyzes civilized nations in their war against terrorism. In fact, Israel’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak once bragged that “we fight against the terrorists with one arm tied behind our back.” But in my view, phony liberals who warn that we shouldn’t “sink to the level of the enemy” are pretentious, racist, and hypocritical.
Few among us understand that the most ancient foundations of international law are supposed to bolster, not weaken the war against terrorism. The historic parallel to today’s terrorist organizations are the pirates, those gangs of outlaws who instilled fear in the hearts of passengers on land and sea, and were defined as early as the time of the Roman Empire as “enemies of humanity.”
In the Paris Declaration of 1865, the political powers of the time outlawed the pirates. The UN conventions of 1958 and 1982 defined piracy as an international crime. The purpose and the method of today’s terrorists are identical to those of the pirates.
This means that by the very fact that they’re fighting against the law itself, they are not entitled to the protection afforded citizens of countries, nor the protection of international law as soldiers of a sovereign state. Therefore international law permits any person any place to attack and capture or kill pirates. The very membership in a gang of pirates excludes the members from the law and removes all their legal rights.
Jurist Douglas R. Burgess Jr. (The Dread Pirate Bin Laden, Legal Affairs, 2005) has argued that, like piracy, the crime of terrorism should be “defined and proscribed internationally, so that terrorists would be properly understood as enemies of all states.” Consequently it should become the law that anyone who offers terrorists shelter or congregates near them must also be considered a criminal and the enemy of all of humanity.
Whatever step that needs to be taken in pursuit of the war against terrorists will hence be considered legal.
Terrorists must understand that any law that they break ceases to exist for them and will no longer offer them protection. If they intentionally attack a civilian population, they must understand that the attacked party will intentionally attack their civilians. If they kidnap people for ransom, they must understand that their own peaceful civilians will be kidnapped in return.
For this matter, anyone who participates in a demonstration supporting Hezbollah, Hamas, the PLO or any other terror organization must understand that he or she will become a legitimate target for elimination or arrest.
The international establishment must change the rules of engagement regarding terrorists, and start acting against them and their communities using their methods. This is not only the righteous and moral thing to do, it is also a legitimate policy based on the foundations of international law.
Legal experts in the west in general and in Israel in particular must cease protecting the enemies of civilization and the law and devote their skills to the defense of the free society that nourishes them.
About the Author: Ehud Tokatly is an Israeli writer, editor, translator, media expert, educator, software & Internet developer and entrepreneur. His father's family has lived in Jerusalem for seven generations. His mother escaped from Germany just before the holocaust. Following his military service, he studied theater at Tel Aviv University, and film & television in Harrow College of Higher Education, as well as Judaic studies at the Dvar Yerushalayim Yeshiva, in London. He has written more than 100 screenplays for productions in Israel and abroad. His 1988 children's book "The Lost Children of Tarshish" (with co-writers S. and J. Klitsner) was published in Israel, the US and Russia. In the 1990's, he co-founded MovieStar Systems Ltd. -- a start-up company that developed software tools for the media production industry. In 2002, he published a modern adaptation of Herzl's famous utopia - "Altneuland." He lives in Jerusalem with his wife.
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