Støre in hole, keeps digging

Question from Torkil Åmland of the Progressive Party to foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre:

Will the foreign minister retract his previous condemnation of Israel’s reaction to the border violation on June 5th this year, and instead condemn the Syrian government’s organization of the event?

Støre’s short response is “No.”  Here is the unauthorized translation of the long version, with editorial comments in brackets:

I would also refer to the phrasing in a press release issued on June 6th, 2011, which differs from what the representative’s quotes. I maintained here that Israel’s use of violence against demonstrators who tried to cross the armistice line between Syria and the occupied Golan Heights is unacceptable, and that killing unarmed demonstrators is indefensible. I continued to say that Norway condemns use of violence and actions that provoke violence, and emphasized that also Syria has a responsibility to counteract unrest in the area.

[In other words, while Støre said that Israel’s actions were “indefensible” and “unacceptable,” Åmland was wrong in interpreting this as anything even approaching a condemnation. And Støre was fair: while he condemned admonished Israel in specific terms, his general statement, directed at noone in particular about provocations, and his blindingly obvious statement about Syria’s responsibilities, all amount to the same thing.]

Now on to representative Åmland’s question: It seems that that in the question is a perception that the involved demonstrators crossed Israel’s borders and thereby violated the country’s territory. The actual situation was that the demonstrators crossed the armistice line of 1949 [sic] to get into Syrian territory occupied by Israel. Norway and a unified international community has never recognized Israel’s claim on the Syrian Golan Heights.

Then it is alleged that the supposed “border violation” constitutes an attack on another country’s border and territory, and that Israel therefore in this case can claim the right of self-defense under international law. As all other states, Israel has a clear right to defend itself, something I have underlined on several occasions. The right to self-defense is usually triggered by a military attack, not by unarmed demonstrators trying to make their way into occupied territory. In addition, international law requires that the defense must be necessary and proportional to the attack. By all accounts none of these requirements were fulfilled when Israel opened fire against the demonstrators on the Golan.

[Since the foreign minister of Norway raised the issue of international law, it is necessary to interrupt this remarkable flow of logic. For the sake of argument, let’s assume he is right: Israel should simply accept his and the other minions’ assertion that they have no claim to the “Syrian” Golan Heights, and that this is an armistice line. Because if it’s an armistice line, it is – according to international law – a war zone. Which, by international law, can only be crossed upon mutual consent of the belligerent parties, or the crossing is considered a belligerent act.

Syria is clearly and unequivocally hostile to Israel. It is a totalitarian regime that exerts violent control over its citizens. Which is why there is a buffer zone that is supposed to be monitored by UNDOF. Given all these circumstances, Israel had every legal right to consider the “demonstrators” as belligerents who were violating the terms of the armistice with the full consent of the Syrian government. Under these circumstances, under international law, Israel has every right to use deadly force to enforce the armistice. Further, there is no way for Israel to ascertain whether the “demonstrators” in fact were unarmed, and come to think of it, is there any way that Støre can certify that they were unarmed, even now?]

Syrian authorities’ possible complicity in the demonstrators’ protest campaign does not absolve Israel from the responsibility of upholding its obligations under international law. But Syria should be held responsible for possible violations in the armistice with Israel. This is one of several reasons I have condemned both violence and actions that provoke violence – and additionally pointed out Syrian’s shared responsibility for counteracting unrest in the area.

[Everybody get that? Since it’s not proven that Syrian authorities played any part in sending buses to refugee camps that are normally under heavy guard by Syrian troops, loading these buses with lots of Palestinians, driving them through the countryside to one of the most guarded armistice lines outside the Korean peninsula, and allowing them to approach, there is no reason to hold Syria responsible for anything but a hypothetical situation. And we should all be thoroughly impressed by Støre’s incisive opinion, directed at nobody in particular, that violence and incitement to violence are condemnable acts.]

I also have to wonder about the representative’s assertion about a “pattern in which Norway condemsn Israel when the country defends itself against attacks directed at its borders, people, or territory.” This is wrong. The government has several times, and at a number of different occasions, condemned attacks against Israel and defended Israel’s right to defend its own country and population.

[Really. Well, not that this is great science, but I did a google search on the terms “Støre condemns Israel” and “Støre defends Israel,” and here’s how it came out:

(I also did a search on variations of this. For example, “Støre defends Israel’s” I got seven hits, all of them links to the same article by anti-Israeli activists criticizing the foreign minister for defending Israel on Vanunu. But a search on “Støre condemns Israel’s” I get 61,100 – sixty-one thousand one hundred – hits.)

I am sure there are plenty of quotes along the lines of what Støre just said, namely that “of course, Israel has the right to defend itself….” along with a huge BUT which invariably amounts to “just not like they just did.” In fact, I can not recall a single instance where Støre applauded Israeli restraint, its proportional response, or anything else Israel did to defend its citizens and territory.

All this boils down to general platitudes about two things: Israel’s sovereign rights and attempts by its enemies to violate it.

On the other hand, Støre gets very specific when it comes to the limitations of Israel’s sovereign rights and Israel’s attempts to defend it.

Q.E.D. the complaint made by the right honorable representative against the foreign minister.