The Corner

The Gaza Flotilla and Lawfare

Yesterday, while driving near Denver, I caught a lengthy NPR report on the latest Gaza Flotilla. This year’s (potentially deadly) episode of protest theater stars not only Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin but also noted author Alice Walker. Walker is sailing because — and I am not making this up – she loves “children,” “water,” “trees,” and “parents who are happy.” I love those things as well, but for some reason I don’t feel compelled to support terrorists against our close democratic allies.

While the flotilla is obviously intended as a public-relations challenge to Israel, it has a not-so-hidden legal element as well. For years, the Left has tried to narrow and constrict the law of armed conflict so that it effectively denies Israel (and, by extension, the U.S.) the ability to conduct effective combat operations against jihadists. And while the legality of military blockades against belligerents is well-established under the laws of war, the Left essentially and functionally denies that a state of armed conflict or actual “war” exists against Hamas.

While at home we often argue about the military versus law-enforcement paradigms in our own war on terror, the distinction has real meaning in the international legal debate. Simply put, if you’re fighting a war, a lawful belligerent enjoys a freedom of action that a police officer does not. Yet when the Gaza Flotilla sails (the first ship has already left) and Israel intercepts it on the high seas, the airwaves will fill with allegations that Israel’s actions are “illegal.”

But such claims — just like the claim that the American strike on bin Laden’s compound was unlawful — are grounded in a political argument, not a legal reality. The goal of the Left is to change the law of war to render the use of military force nearly impossible. Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban cannot defeat American or Israeli forces on the battlefield, so their functional allies attempt to use international law to accomplish what the actual terrorists cannot. That is the essence of “lawfare.”

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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