15 May 2006



Louis Rene Beres

Professor of International Law

Department of Political Science

Purdue University

West Lafayette IN  47907



TEL     765/494-4189

FAX    765/494-0833



          From the standpoint of binding international law, there is little point to linguistic transformations of murder. No matter how hard they may try, those who would identify the willful maiming and execution of noncombatants in the name of an abstract ideal - any ideal - are twisting and defiling the pertinent legal rules. When Palestinian insurgents claim the legal right to use "any means necessary" because they are victims of an alleged "occupation," they are flat out wrong. Even if their disingenuous claims for "national self-determination" were authentically supportable, there are always firm jurisprudential limits on permissible targets and levels of violence.

          The limited rights of insurgency under international law assuredly do not include the use of nail-filled bombs dipped in rat poison. Even under their most generous definition in law, these rights can never supplant the settled rules of humanitarian international law -  also known as the law of armed conflict. Nowhere is it written that there are political goals so worthy of implementation that they can  allow even the deliberate incineration of infants in cribs or of children at play. Indeed, one doesn't need to be a professor of international law to understand this.

          Supporters of Palestinian terror violence against Israelis still argue passionately that the ends (Palestinian "independence") justify the means (grotesque attacks upon civilians). Leaving aside everyday and ordinary ethical standards by which this argument is manifestly indecent, the ends can NEVER justify the means under conventional or customary international law. For more than two thousand years, binding legal principles of world politics have clearly stipulated that intentional forms of violence against the innocent are always repugnant and always prohibited.

          From the standpoint of international law, one man's terrorist can never be another man's freedom-fighter. Although fashionable to repeat at cocktail parties, this facile expression is an empty witticism, one entirely devoid of any serious meaning. While it is true that certain insurgencies can be judged lawful, these permissible resorts to force must still always conform to the laws of war. Where the insurgent group resorts to openly unjust means, however, its actions are unambiguously terrorism. It follows that even if ritualistic Palestinian claims of a hostile "occupation" were reasonable rather than contrived, their corresponding claim of entitlement to oppose Israel "by any means necessary" would nonetheless remain false.

          International law has determinable form and content. It cannot be invented and reinvented by terror groups merely to satisfy their own particular interests. This is especially the case where terror violence purposely targets the most fragile and vulnerable civilian populations.

          National liberation movements that fail to meet the test of JUST MEANS are never protected as lawful or legitimate. Even if we were to accept the spurious argument that Hamas and its sister groups somehow meet the criteria of "national liberation," it is plain that they do not meet the standards of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity - the relevant standards applicable under the laws of war. These standards have been applied to insurgent organizations by the common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and by the two protocols to these Conventions of 1977. They are also binding upon all combatants by virtue of broader customary and conventional international law, including Article 1 of the Preamble to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907. This rule, called the "Martens Clause," makes ALL PERSONS responsible for the "laws of humanity" and the "dictates of public conscience."

          Let us be clear about international law. The ends can never justify the means. As in the case of war between states, every use of force by insurgents must be judged twice, once with regard to the justness of the objective (in this case, a Palestinian state to be built explicitly upon the charred ruins of an ecstatically dismembered Israel) and once with regard to the justness of the means used toward that objective. Murderers of young children who take undisguised delight in the blood of their victims are never "freedom fighters." If they were entitled to such a designation, we would then have to concede that international law itself was nothing more than a nicely-veneered authorization for consummate evil in world affairs.

          American and European supporters of a Palestinian State continue to presume that it will be part of a "two-state solution." For these persistent believers in "peace," the new Arab state will simply exist side-by-side with the extant Jewish State. Still, this kindly presumption is dismissed everywhere in the Arab/Islamic world. Cartographically, the "Map of Palestine" at the official website of the Palestinian National Authority still includes all of Israel. There is only one state on this map, and it is not the State of Israel.

          Terrorist crimes mandate universal cooperation in apprehension and punishment. As punishers of "grave breaches" under international law, all states are expected to search out and prosecute, or extradite, individual terrorist perpetrators. In no circumstances are any states permitted to characterize terrorists as "freedom fighters." This is emphatically true for the United States, which incorporates all international law as the "supreme law of the land" at Article 6 of the Constitution, and which was formed by the Founding Fathers according to the timeless principles of BLACKSTONE’S COMMENTARIES and antecedent Natural Law.

          As Americans, we have a genuine and historic obligation to avoid specious manipulations of law. Whether in New York or Tel-Aviv, "freedom fighters" do not war against office workers, nursery schools, buses, flower markets or ice-cream parlors. Until we accept this most elementary human understanding for the Middle East, we will run the real risk of transforming ghoulish gangs into governments. And in time, these terrorists-turned-governments will likely have easy access to weapons of mass destruction.








LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism and international law.

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