Making Up International Law For Fun and Sport

A Palestinian man hurls a stone during clashes with Israeli forces / Getty Images

Media coverage of Hamas's attacks on the Israeli border have been, as usual, a dumpster fire of idiocy and ignorance. Hamas itself now admits that "50 of the 62 martyrs" were card-carrying terrorists. One of the heads of Hamas just boasted to an interviewer: "This is not peaceful resistance." No facts or admissions will intrude on the media narrative, which is that Israel is diabolically slaughtering civilians because Israelis enjoy killing people.

One of the tropes that is being repeated everywhere is this one, promoted here with complete credulity by the New York Times:

International law allowed for the use of lethal force only as a last resort in the face of an immediate threat to life or serious injury, Mr. Colville noted. Those laws "appear to have been ignored again and again," he added.

"An attempt to approach, or crossing or damaging the green line fence do not amount to a threat to life or serious injury and are not sufficient grounds for the use of live ammunition," he said.

This farcical claim originates with "human rights" groups such as Human Rights Watch (whose Israel director, Omar Shakir, is a BDS activist) and Amnesty International (which calls for an arms embargo on Israel).

The problem is this alleged requirement of "international law" doesn't exist. It is made-up, an example of the new trend of human rights groups claiming "international law" that doesn't actually exist in, say, the Geneva Conventions, but is merely what these groups wish was enshrined in international law because it gives their hatred of Israel a sheen of moral high-mindedness and impartiality.

The concept that lethal force can only be used when faced with an "imminent threat to life" is taken from domestic law enforcement, not from the laws of armed conflict. Just think of how ludicrous this claim is applied to the battlefield: it would render the United States, for example, guilty of war crimes for killing members of ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria and Afghanistan.

No matter. Ken Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, tweets:

Ken Roth tweet

How do we know Ken Roth is wrong? Because Ken Roth says so. Here he is writing in a different context one year ago:

In war, opposing combatants can be targeted and killed by virtue of their status as combatants, without regard to their conduct at that moment. … In peacetime, by contrast, law enforcement rules allow the use of lethal force only as a last resort to stop an imminent lethal threat.

How embarrassing—no less so for Ken Roth and Human Rights Watch than for the gullibles in the media who repeat this lie.