Pre-Empting Terror is Legal

Dear Honest Reporting Member,

This week, news agencies continued to analyze Israel’s policy of attacking terrorists and their ringleaders in Gaza and the West Bank.

The Financial Times (UK), in an August 3 editorial entitled “False Security,” charged that “Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian militants… is unjustified on moral, political and pragmatic grounds… The moral case against what has been happening needs no explanation. Politically, assassination harms Israel’s claim to be the only democracy in the Middle East and alienates western opinion. And in cold practical terms, it is counter-productive.”

Others disagree. Harry Levins, a senior writer at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, filed a comprehensive report on August 3 entitled, “Military experts debate moral ramifications of killing leaders.” Levins wrote:

“Israel says the targeted killings of Palestinian leaders are necessary as part of its effort to prevail in ‘an armed conflict short of war.’ Palestinians denounce the killings as ‘extra-judicial executions.’ Military experts tend to disagree with the Palestinians, even while conceding that such attacks fall into a gray area. Some think attacks by the Israelis on specific Palestinian targets are legal and justified because the [Palestinian] leaders are engaged in aggressive warfare…”

Levins continues: “Are [Israel’s] military moves ‘assassinations?’ Despite some loose legal ends, the consensus seems to be ‘No.'”

Levins cites U.S. Air Force Col. Charles J. Duncan Jr., a military lawyer: “Contrary to popular belief, neither international law nor U.S. domestic law prohibits the killing of those directing armed forces in war.’ And he said, ‘Nations have the right under international law to use force against terrorists.'”

Levins quotes former U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger: “If the targeting and killing of the leader or leaders [of aggressive warfare] can help to end a war quickly, and thus spare the lives of hundreds of thousands of combatants, it is hard to find any moral argument for not attempting to kill the leaders… What has been forbidden in most statements of the law of armed conflict is assassination, usually defined as a murder by treacherous means. Thus it is considered lawful in warfare for a skilled and daring soldier… to steal into the enemy’s camp and enter the general’s tent and kill him.'”

If you wish to commend Levins and the Post Dispatch, write to:

The Financial Times editorial.

If you disagree with the Financial Times editorial, write to:

The most effective method is to write a letter in your own words. Otherwise, cut-and-paste the following sample letter.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.

========== SAMPLE LETTER OF COMPLAINT ============

To the Editor:

I consider Israel’s attacks on Palestinian terrorist leaders to be legitimate defense based on moral, political and practical considerations.

As a result of these attacks, Palestinian terrorist cells must now spend much of their time looking for sanctuary and worrying about collaborators, rather than planning new atrocities. Countless innocent Israeli lives have been saved as a result.

Many military experts testify that these Israeli attacks on specific Palestinian targets are legal and justified because Palestinian leaders are engaged in aggressive warfare.”

When Britain’s special services carried out an aggressive war against terrorism on British soil, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared: “Terrorism is a form of tyranny. You can never let it win.”

Israel today finds itself in the same difficult war against terrorism.