War etc

Cluster bombs

Israel was right to respond forcefully to Hezbollah’s act of aggression on July 12, when the militia crossed the border to kill three Israeli soldiers and kidnap two others, while launching rockets across the border at civilian targets.

By operating in civilian areas and using civilians as shields, Hezbollah bears most of the responsibility for civilian casualties in Lebanon. It bears all the responsibility for civilian casualties in Israel.

If the Israelis had been as bloodthirsty and murderous in Lebanon as some of their enemies told us they were, the recent war would have left tens or hundreds of thousands of Lebanese dead. There’s no doubt Israel was militarily capable of that.

Still, I cannot find a way of justifying Israel’s widespread use of cluster bombs, especially in the final days of the war. Cluster bombs are not illegal weapons (although perhaps they should be). They are designed to kill combatants over a fairly wide area. If cluster bombs are distinctly more awful than other legal weapons, it’s because so many of the tiny bomblets they contain do not explode on use. Long after the fighting, they can kill or maim those who stumble upon them. And of course children are particularly vulnerable.

It’s not enough to say, as an Israeli army spokesman did, “All the weapons and munitions used by the Israel Defense Forces are legal under international law, and their use conforms with international standards.”

Was Israel’s use of cluster bombs a matter of absolute military necessity?

Update: Last year I wrote in a different context:

As with many issues involving Israel, there are at least two ways to look at it:

One is to leap gleefully on every failure– real, imagined or exaggerated– as evidence of the country’s inherent and unique wickedness.

Another is to look at the facts, recognize genuine cases of injustice, and call for changes that will make Israel a better, fairer country– without compromising its right to exist as the one place in the world which Jews can count on as a homeland and, if need be, a refuge.

I think we have a pretty good idea of which people will choose the first option.