Saturday, May 01, 2004

I just discovered another letter in Al-Ahram weekly from a few weeks ago that I'd forgotten about. It is a response to an article by one Curtis Doebbler, a self-styled "international human rights lawyer" who has done such illustrious things as advise the government of Sudan on human rights, which, I think, makes my characterization of him as an "inveterate consoler" more appropriate than I imagined when I wrote the letter. To be fair, he has also done a lot of NGO human rights work opposing the Sudanese government. He is a lecturer at the American University in Cairo.

Basically, I take issue with his legal analysis of the assassination of Yassin, which is done in the criminal context, and not in the war context, which I think is the proper mode of analysis, since Israel is at war with Hamas. Yassin was a combatant, and was thus a legal target. I have written recently in the blog comments to the Jewish Press letter below of the importance of keeping these two contexts separate.

Here's the letter:

Irrelevant argument
Sir-- Curtis Doebbler's legal argument against Israel's assassination of Yassin in 'Israel's unwitting tribute' ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 25-31 March) omits one important fact, rendering the whole of his argument incorrect: Israel and paramilitary Hamas are at war. His entire analysis, which is appropriate to the criminal context and not to a context where each side has declared war on the other, is irrelevant.

The legality of Israel's action is thus subject to simple proportionality analysis. Yassin was the leader of a terrorist organisation, and thus not a civilian. His assassination was carried out in a way that harmed few civilians and was thus permitted under international law.

Doebbler's analysis in defence of a man who sanctioned the murder of children, is that of what Immanuel Kant, referring to lawyers who did such things, called an "inveterate consoler".

Michael Brenner
New York, NY

You can find Doebbler's article at:


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