Peres swears in military judges to 'difficult task'

President Shimon Peres stressed the difference between terrorism and retaliation, at a swearing-in ceremony for military judges at Beit Hanassi on Sunday. "A heavy burden has been placed on you today. You have been given a difficult and responsible task," he told the judges. Declaring that judges in the military courts were confronted with far more problematic dilemmas than those in the civil courts due to the many gray areas in the war against terror, Peres stressed that the military uniform "is not there to justify the unjust." Peres made the distinction between terrorism, which results in indiscriminate killings of innocent people, and retaliation, which entails a moral code that obligates soldiers returning fire to make every effort to avoid harming innocent civilians, especially women, children and the elderly. Israel is guided by ethical values such as the purity of arms, he said, but Israel also has the right to self defense. Even in times of war, it is incumbent on Israel to embrace moral and ethical values, Peres emphasized. In this context, he said, when military judges hand down a ruling following a trial, they must remember that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. In terrorist operations, he explained, the cause takes precedence over justice, and the aim justifies the means even though this has no significance in law. The war against terrorism is not like any traditional battlefield in which there are two sides fighting against each other, Peres continued. "This is a clash between a world of values and world of extremes." Peres was critical of terrorists who do not fight according to the rules of war, but use women and children as human shields.