Foreign int’l law experts hear from Israeli officials about security challenges

Gordon showed the group some graphic videos of Israeli civilians being killed with an ax or being run over and splattered in multiple directions as if in a video game.

August 18, 2019 05:02
4 minute read.
Foreign int’l law experts hear from Israeli officials about security challenges

Our Soldiers Speak, Israel Law & Policy Tour (I-LAP), 2019. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Our Soldiers Speak (OSS) is currently conducting a 10-day visit of 42 foreign international law experts, many with defense experience, to learn about the complex security dilemmas confronted by Israel.

During the visit, the participants are taking part in briefings from Knesset members, Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officials and Israeli defense officials with expertise in operations, intelligence and cyber.

While also looking at wider aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict and visiting some sources of coexistence, the main focus is “learning about the unique challenges Israel faces on a daily basis from violence.”

Last week The Jerusalem Post attended one of the events in which the former legal adviser for the Israel Police and former IDF West Bank Courts Chief Justice Shaul Gordon briefed the group about how the country has tried to balance national security and human rights in dealing with the lone wolf terrorism challenge.

Gordon showed the group some graphic and grisly videos of Israeli civilians being slaughtered like sheep with an ax or being run over and splattered in multiple directions as if in a video game, except these were real-life, deadly car rammings.

Sounds of shock were audible from the visitors during the video.

Gordon cited the statistics of deaths during the 2015-2016 Knife Intifada, arguing that even with over 200 Palestinian attackers killed, hundreds more were arrested and brought to trial.

For Gordon, this showed Israel’s efforts at restraint and at not shooting to kill every attacker as might be done in a full-fledged war context.

He also discussed the country’s administrative detention and house demolition policies to offer an Israeli perspective on achieving deterrence.

Administrative detention involves detaining alleged security suspects to prevent future crimes outside of the standard criminal justice process, but with a special judicial oversight process.

House demolitions are aimed at punishing the families of terrorists with the hope of deterring potential future attackers from perpetrating terrorist attacks out of fear that their family’s homes would be demolished.

Both policies are controversial globally.

Gordon said that more learned foreign international law experts, especially those familiar with the unique level of threats Israel faces, are more willing to understand Israel’s use of administrative detention, even if they would oppose the practice in their home countries.

At the same time, OSS encourages its speakers to be genuine, and Gordon expressed reservations regarding how acceptable home demolitions will ever be viewed by the international legal community.

He added that Israel discontinued home demolitions in 2005 and only resumed the policy in 2015 when the lone wolf terrorist problem exploded.

Buenos Aires law professor Augustin Bonaveri told the Post on Thursday that while Argentina has had terrorist attacks, “We don’t have this kind of terrorism like he showed us last night, with someone attacking with an ax, a knife or cars. I am not used to that.”

He continued, “Our legal system is very protective of the legal warranties of people who are accused of a crime. I was wondering regarding administrative detention and six months (the standard period of an initial administrative detention order), how can the state prevent the abuse of this kind of intervention and detention?”

“That is a contrast for our legal system… but I understood the difficult situation here and the problem is a big problem. Someone from nowhere starts to injure or to kill people, so the approach should necessarily be different… though [human] rights should always be protected,” he said.

John Roberts, who is currently studying law after having served with the US army, including in operational situations in Afghanistan in 2015, said he saw similarities between the US and Israel both “battling extremists at home and abroad.”

He said that Gordon’s presentation was interesting because “when I was in the military… we neutralized the threat” as opposed to the Israel Police trying to arrest lone wolf terrorists if possible.

Further, he said that coming to Israel and getting to stand on the Lebanese and Syrian borders and view the terrain and the challenges upfront helped him see that various UN reports on Israel, the public perception and general reporting are “very one-sided. It has been interesting to hear how Israel is different. It is a truth that very few people throughout the world have constantly been threatened with others trying to annihilate them” like Israel has.

F. Singh, from India, is currently studying at both the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the Harvard Kennedy School, has a decade of experience in the defense security sphere.

He asked some hard questions of Gordon on Wednesday, but on Thursday echoed Roberts that he is gaining, “great insight into what the existing situation is. What we often hear from the media is often skewed or a misinterpretation of existential realities. What we hear on the ground is the more exact narrative of what is going on. We need the realities of the people, rather than of the media.”

Singh expressed hope that all sides to the conflict will eventually choose “negotiation over guns” and resolve the conflict in the framework of the two-state solution.

Besides Argentina, the US and India, trip participants include commanders from the Swiss Armed Forces, a lecturer from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; a legal adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross; and an advocate to the High Court of Tanzania.

OSS, founded and directed by Benjamin Anthony and its president Rozita Pnini, is a nongovernmental organization “dedicated to changing the international narratives and negative viewpoints towards Israel.”

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