[Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner challenged the Fourth Geneva Convention when he claimed that Israel has a right to kill any Palestinian who voted for Hamas]
Elham Asaad Buaras
President of the New York Board of Rabbis caused a storm last month when he claimed that Israel has a right to kill any Palestinian who voted for Hamas.
Speaking at a pro-Israel rally in New York on July 28, Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner challenged the Fourth Geneva Convention and labelled everyone who voted for Hamas a combatant.
“When you are part of an election process that asks for a terrorist organisation which proclaims in word and indeed that their primary objective is to destroy their neighbouring country and not to build schools or commerce or jobs, you are complicit and you are not a civilian casualty. ”
Kirshner also claimed the Israeli army is “the most moral army in the history of civilization.” He ended his remarks with the word, Amen.
Kirshner also suggested Palestinians who had failed “to heed the pamphlets, the phone calls, the text messages and the warning shots telling you to evacuate a building” are not collateral damage.”
Thane Rosenbaum, a legal scholar, wrote similarly in the Wall Street Journal on July 23: “You forfeit your right to be called civilians when you freely elect members of a terrorist organization as statesmen.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) blasted Kirshner’s stance. Director of CAIR-NY Operations, Sadyia Khalique, said, “It is unconscionable for any American religious leader to designate hundreds of thousands of civilians as ‘combatants’ who deserve to be killed using weapons paid for by American taxpayers.”
“In New York, we don’t tolerate hateful violent rhetoric and call on responsible leaders in the New Jersey and New York Jewish communities to repudiate this apparent call for violence.”
Rosenbaum’s and Kirshner’s arguments have been widely lambasted. James Downie of the Washington Post said, “The claim that voting for a government takes away someone’s status as a noncombatant would be ludicrous if applied to all populations in all conflicts equally.
Such an attitude would at the very least contradict Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: ‘No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed.’ It also probably would up end much of the traditional framework protecting anyone not carrying weapons in war zones across the globe.”
Many critics including Demos think-tank’s Matt Bruenig have pointed out the chilling similarity between Rosenbaum’s and Kirshner’s words and Osama bin Laden’s rationale behind the 9/11 terror attacks.
“In his effort to wish away the civilian atrocities in Gaza, Rosenbaum has inadvertently made the argument of a terrorist,” wrote Bruenig.
Bruenig points out that a year after the 9/11 attacks bin Laden wrote a open letter explaining American civilians are legitimate targets in the al-Qa’ida attack as they have voted for governments who support oppression: “…the American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. Thus the American people have chosen, consented to, and affirmed their support for the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, the occupation and usurpation of their land, and its continuous killing, torture, punishment and expulsion of the Palestinians.”