To the Editor:
I wish to respond to Barak Seener's article ("Targeting Israelis via International Law," Fall 2009), which cited me as evidence of NGOs' "political" motivations for lawsuits against Israeli officials.
First, I have never been an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (I was a cooperating attorney, employed by another firm). Any of my personal views or motivations that Mr. Seener thinks can be discerned from a petition I once signed should not be imputed to that organization.
To address the central moral issue raised by the article, all actors—state and non-state alike—should be bound by international law. Indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks upon civilians are immoral and illegal, regardless of who undertakes them and regardless of the context. These norms should be enforced universally and any attempt to enforce them should be applauded.
Barak Seener responds:
The political objectives of the petition that Mr. Poulshok signed were in line with his participation in CCR's court proceedings against Israeli generals. The politicized agenda of both the petition and CCR's reasoning in the cases against Israeli generals contributes to allegations that Israel engages in disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks, despite evidence to the contrary.
It is a spurious assertion that universal law is straightforward and apolitical and that it is not subject to misapplication. Indeed, my article demonstrates the political and often radical agenda of NGOs as well as individuals, who subvert international law to political ends.
Empirically, states engaged in asymmetrical warfare against sub-state terrorist groups find that the latter embed themselves in civilian populations who in turn become civilian shields. While states may take international law into account, non-state terrorist actors do not, which is precisely what makes them terrorists. To conflate the two and create an equivalence between both parties is nonsensical but serves the terrorists' objective.