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Noncombatant Immunity and Israel-Hezbollah Wars: The Case of the April Understanding

  • Filippo Dionigi
Part of the Middle East Today book series (MIET)

Abstract

As seen, Hezbollah was born and has been constantly operating in a situation of international conflict. Inevitably, its activity became exposed to the normative international context that regulates these circumstances that is International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The following analysis considers one case in which the IHL principle of noncombatants immunity1 has shown a particular influence in regulating the behavior of Hezbollah as a political and military actor.

Keywords

International Norm Security Zone Islamic Principle Palestine Liberation Organization Ceasefire Agreement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    I refer here to norm internalization dynamics as defined by Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink, “International norm dynamics and political change,” International Organization 52, no. 4 (1998): pp. 904–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    An important note regards the fact that Hezbollah may be involved in acts of violence taking place outside of Lebanon and targeting civilian objectives. This has been widely denounced as a possibility but Hezbollah’s involvement in these operations, though possible, is still unconfirmed. For a discussion, often speculative, of Hezbollah’s international “footprint,” see Matthew Levitt, Hezbollah: the global footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God (Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2013). The present analysis, nonetheless, applies exclusively to Hezbollah’s military activity within the context of the conflict with Israel. (See also note 76 below in this respect.) In 1949 Israel and Lebanon signed an Armistice Agreement following the first Arab-Israeli war.Google Scholar
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  10. 23.
    Human Rights Watch, “Civilian pawns: laws of war violations and the use of weapons on the Israel-Lebanon border,” (Human rights Watch, 1996).Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    In the following account I mainly refer to the UN report written by Major-General Franklin van Kappen on behalf of the UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali. UN Security Council, “Letter dated 7 May 1996 from the secretary general addressed to the the president of the Security Council.” Doc. No. S/1996/337. The author carried out interviews with van Kappen and the journalist Robert Fisk who was an eye witness of the Qānā events, and reported on these in Robert Fisk, Pity the nation: the abduction of Lebanon, 4th, new American ed. (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002), chapter 18. Franklin van Kappen (Major General, Military Advisor to the UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali. Den Hague, the Netherlands), in discussion with the author, November 2, 2010.Google Scholar
  12. 28.
    Nicholas Blanford, Warriors of God: inside Hezbollah’s thirty-year struggle against Israel, 1st ed. (New York: Random House, 2011), p. 168. The same was also confirmed to the author as a possible, although unconfirmed, hypothesis by Fisk. Robert Fisk (Middle East Correspondent for the Independent) in discussion with the author, September 9, 2009.Google Scholar
  13. 32.
    In addition to the cost in human lives of this operation for the Lebanese, the Qānā events had detrimental strategic effects for Israel, which further begs the question of what provoked this Israeli reaction. When the author asked Robert Fisk what would have justified such reaction, he replied with the word “punishment” saying that the Israeli army and its soldiers were profoundly frustrated by the war and its losses on the Israeli side. Robert Fisk (Middle East Correspondent for the Independent) in discussion with the author, September 9, 2009. van Kappen thinks that the responsibility for the operation does not lie with the high-ranking command of the Israeli army, which unlikely would have put itself in such an unfavorable situation. Rather, a breach in the Israeli chain of command may have caused an alteration of orders eventually leading to the massacre. Franklin van Kappen (Major General, Military Advisor to the UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, Den Hague, the Netherlands), in discussion with the author, November 2, 2010. See Robert Fisk, Pity the nation: Lebanon at war (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 170–1.Google Scholar
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  18. 47.
    Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah, “Speech on al-Manar Channel, 12 August 2006” (Mideastwire.com, 2006).Google Scholar
  19. 49.
    It shall be reminded that the concept of jihād in Islam is more extensive than the idea of a military struggle. For a broader discussion of jihād in Hezbollah, see Hilal Khashan; Ibrahim Mousawi, “Hizbullah’s jihad concept,” Journal of Religion and Society 9 (2007): pp. 1–19. Ibrahim Mūsawī is a member of Hezbollah, mainly in charge of its external relations.Google Scholar
  20. 50.
    Nairn Qassem, Hizbullah: the story from within, Updated ed. (London: Saqi, 2010), pp. 86–112.Google Scholar
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    Although Qāsim’s explanation obviously resorts to Shi’i traditional thinking, offensive jihād is nonetheless forbidden also in the Sunni tradition. Also Quṭb, to mention one example, in his commentary to the Qur’an makes clear that aggression is forbidden in Islam. See Alia Brahimi, Jihad and just war in the war on terror (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 53.
    This point is reiterated in almost all Hezbollah’s declarations. For an analysis of this, see Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Hizbu’llah: politics and religion, Critical studies on Islam (London; Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2002), pp. 112–27.Google Scholar
  23. 54.
    John Kelsay, “Islam and the distinction between combatants and noncom-batants,” in Cross, crescent, and sword: the justification and limitation of war in Western and Islamic tradition, ed. James Turner Johnson and John Kelsay (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), p. 198.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Brahimi, jihad and just war; John Kelsay, Arguing the just war in Islam (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).Google Scholar
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    Sohail Hashmi, “Interpreting the Islamic ethics of war and peace,” in The ethics of war and peace: religious and secular perspectives, ed. Terry Nardin (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 161.Google Scholar
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    W. Andrew Terrill, “Low intensity conflict in southern Lebanon: lessons and dynamics of the Israeli-Shi’ite war,” Journal of Conflict Studies 7, no. 3 (1987): p. 24. See previous chapter.Google Scholar
  27. 66.
    Double-effect principle is a concept of ethics originally developed in Thomistic philosophy but often mentioned in the ethics of war debate. There is no uncontroversial interpretation but fundamentally this principle allows for the killing of noncombatants as long as this is not the primary intention of the fighter and even though this might be a necessary consequence of the attack. A principle of proportionality applies as well, prohibiting an attack in which harm to noncombatants is disproportionate with respect to the strategic benefits of the operation. See Uwe Steinhoff, On the ethics of war and terrorism (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 33–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 68.
    Shaykh Muhammad Hussayn Fadlallah and Mahmoud Soueid, “Islamic unity and political change. Interview with Shaykh Muhammad Hussayn Fadlallah,” Journal of Palestine Studies 25, no. 1 (1995): p. 65. The concept of public good translates the Islamic concept of maṣlaḥa. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 76.
    Daniel Sobelman claims that Israeli intelligence is correct in attributing these operations to Hezbollah. Daniel Sobelman, “Hizbollah from terror to resistance: towards a national defence strategy,” in Israel and Hizbollah: an asymmetric conflict in historical and comparative perspectives,ed. Clive Jones and Sergio Catignani (London; New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 59–60. Dalacoura also links these actions including the TWA hijacking of 1985 and the kidnappings in Beirut in the 1980s to Hezbollah, and she concludes that Hezbollah was linked to these events.Google Scholar
  30. Katerina Dalacoura, Islamist terrorism and democracy in the Middle East (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 85. Matthew Levitt has discussed Hezbollah’s alleged involvement in international operations in Levitt, Hezbollah: the global footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God. His research nonetheless has a highly speculative tone and relies almost exclusively on intelligence sources.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 79.
    Sheikh Yousef al-Qardawī is a widely known Muslim scholar based in Qatar and popular for his religious television program Islam and Life. See Gilles Kepel, The war for Muslim minds: Islam and the West (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004), p. 165.Google Scholar
  32. 84.
    Both Robert Fisk and Nicholas Blanford report that at the funeral and the commemoration of the victims of the massacre, a fight erupted between AMAL and Hezbollah, probably related to the issues of who had actual responsibility for the massacre. Blanford, Warriors of God, p. 177; Robert Fisk, Pity the nation: Lebanon at war, 3rd ed. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), chapter 18.Google Scholar
  33. 85.
    Hasan Nasrallah, “The April Understanding,” in Voice of Hezbollah: The statements of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, ed. Nicholas Noe and Nicholas Blanford (London; New York: Verso, 2007), p. 154.Google Scholar
  34. 92.
    Hugo Slim, “Why protect civilians? Innocence, immunity and enmity in war,” International Affairs 79, no. 3 (2003): p. 483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Filippo Dionigi 2014

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