By Louis Rene Beres
A pertinent examination of John P. Grant and J. Craig Barker,
"Encyclopedic Dictionary of International Law," Second Edition, Dobbs Ferry New York,
Oceana Publications Inc., 2004, 617 pp.
Looking over the expanding landscape (one might also say "wreckage") of Israel`s constant security dilemma, few people ever take the trouble to examine this critical matter jurisprudentially. Yet, Israel`s always-problematic fate is dependent, at least in part, upon prevailing and adversarial interpretations of international law. This binding set of rules and procedures impacts critical Israeli policies on both war and peace. It follows that it can now be enormously helpful for us to review some of the key concepts and principles operating under contemporary international law with particular reference to
A good place to begin this review is John P. Grant`s and J. Craig Barker`s "Encyclopedic Dictionary of International Law." True to the publisher`s claim that it represents a "one-of-a-kind desktop reference on international law," this outstand-ing book offers clear and informed views of international organizations, diplomatic law, criminal law, human rights, environmental law and economic law. To be sure, it is not in any way focused on
With respect to terrorism, all who witness the unending murders of Israeli civilians by various Palestinian terrorist organizations should carefully note the following: "The global UN conventions (on terrorism) share a number of common features: the definition of the proscribed terrorist acts; the obligation to make these acts crimi-nal, subject to each State`s jurisdiction and to severe penalties; the obligation of each State to investigate any allegations and to extradite or prosecute an alleged offender; the facilitation of extradition....the obligation to cooperate...."
Why, we must ask, are these fundamental (international law calls them "peremp-tory") legal expectations routinely ignored whenever
With respect to Perfidy, the reader may consider Encyclopedic Dictionary`s refe-rence to Art. 37(1) of Protocol I Additional to the
Regarding GENOCIDE, the book`s entry — again in generic terms, not specific to the Jewish State — makes it unambiguous that many of Israel`s State and non-State enemies seek much more than a political or military victory. In terms of the listed Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, which entered into force on 12 January 1951, genocide means any of series of listed acts that are "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such..." By extrapolation, there can be no doubt that both Pales-tinian practices and Iranian policies calling for the elimination of
Finally, the Grant and Barker book offers the reader an entry on self-defense. Although this entry is entirely too brief in view of its existential gravity, it does properly identify two clear expressions of self-defense pertaining to Israel`s essential rights under international law: The longstanding customary right of "anticipatory self-defense" and the conventional right codified in the UN Charter at Art 51 allowing for certain uses of force after an attack has already been suffered.
Throughout its brief life-history, the State of Israel has had to invoke both expres-sions of self-defense under international law, and not always with appropriate support from the international community. For example, when elements of the Israel Air Force (IAF) expertly destroyed the Iraqi Osiraq nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981 with a total of one casualty — a preemptive action that undoubtedly saved thou-sands of American and Israeli lives during the later Gulf War in 1991 ("Operation Desert Storm") — the UN voted to condemn the raid as "aggression." Even Presi-dent Reagan, speaking publicly at the time, refused to support the Israeli raid as lawful self-defense.
Here, everyone who holds that Israel is entitled to the same rights under interna-tional law as every other state, can now argue persuasively that the preemptive destruction of Osiraq was, in fact, an incontestably law-enforcing action. Once the doctrine of anticipatory self-defense is authoritatively defined and articulated — and once political and geopolitical factors are removed from the consideration — this conclusion follows directly.
To summarize, the Encyclopedic Dictionary of International Law is not, in any intended way, about Israel or Israel`s position in world politics. But its entries are very carefully researched and creditably described. This is important for all who have seen
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is a professor of international law who has published widely on
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