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August 17, 2001
Does the Washington Post Advocate War Crimes?

From ADC


ADC Update:
Exchange Between ADC and Fred Hiatt: Has the Post Advocated War Crimes?

Yesterday, ADC Communications Director Hussein Ibish wrote to Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt stating that "the Post editorial page is becoming a hotbed of anti-Palestinian incitement of the most hostile and irresponsible variety" and urging Hiatt not to continue "permitting your section of the Post to become a forum for columnists to regularly promote war crimes and incite massive violence." The letter can be read online at www.ADC.org at
ADC quickly received a reply from Hiatt accusing ADC of "distort[ing] the words of both Michael Kelly and Charles Krauthammer" and of being inaccurate. Today ADC responded with a detailed analysis of one of the war crimes, expulsion, explicitly advocated by both Kelly and Krauthammer. The full text of both letters appears below.

Meanwhile, a third Post columnist in as many days, this time George Will, has written from the same talking points yet another call for Israel to attack the Palestinians with massive force, continuing the Post's relentless campaign of anti-Palestinian incitement. The Post also published some of the hundreds of letters to the editor it has received in response to the Kelly and Krauthammer incitement columns, including one from ADC, which is also included at the end of this update. They can be viewed at the Post's website at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A22917-2001Aug16.html. ADC thanks all those who wrote to the Post in response to Kelly and Krauthammer's warmongering. Given that the Post's campaign of incitement has entered its third straight day, it is all the more important to continue to write to the Post. This irresponsible and reprehensible warmongering cannot continue without challenge. Send emails to letters@washpost.com.


August 16, 2001

Dear Mr. Ibish

In your letter today, you accuse me of allowing the oped page to become a forum for columnists to promote war crimes. This is an extremely serious charge. To back it up, you distort the words of both Michael Kelly and Charles Krauthammer.

You write that Kelly's column "advocated that Israel 'unleash an overwhelming force' against the Palestinians." In fact, the column advocates force not against "the Palestinians" but against "armed Palestinian forces." There is a difference, and if you are going to start throwing around accusations of promoting war crimes, it seems to me the difference is worth noting. Similarly, you accuse Krauthammer of urging a lightning and massive Israeli attack on "the Palestinians." But Krauthammer urges such an attack not on "the Palestinians" but on "every element of Arafat's police state infrastructure." You may find that equally objectionable but once again there is a difference. Both your letters to me and the e-mail campaigns you may help orchestrate (as in the 8/15 "ADC Action Alert: Shameless Anti-Palestinian Incitement from Washington Post Columnist") would be more effective if they were more accurate.

More broadly, I certainly understand your desire that the oped page reflect a diversity of views. I share that desire. We are running nearly a full page of letters tomorrow (including yours) responding to the Kelly and Krauthammer columns, and I remain open as always to submissions of opeds that reflect different opinions in this debate.

With best wishes,
Fred Hiatt



Dear Mr. Hiatt:

While this letter is primarily in response to your letter of August 16, I have no choice but to begin by noting that the Post's relentless campaign of warmongering, which is inciting and laying the rhetorical groundwork for an all-out Israeli assault on the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories, is continued for a third straight day. This time George Will adds his voice to the others demanding that Israel launch a total war. The overwhelming irony also continues in that once again a Post columnist calls for the destruction of Palestinian media, while engaging in the most ruthless incitement himself.

That said, thank you very much for your response to my letter of August 16. I think, however, that you are wrong when you write that I misrepresented Mr. Kelly and Mr. Krauthammer's columns. When Mr. Kelly urges Israel to "destroy, kill, capture and expel the armed Palestinian forces" he is indeed urging an attack against Palestinians, as I wrote. When Mr. Krauthammer demands "a lightning and massive Israeli attack on every element of Arafat's police state infrastructure" he is, in fact, advocating an Israeli attack on Palestinians, just as I wrote. Any group that may constitute "the armed Palestinian forces" Mr. Kelly has in mind and "Arafat's police state infrastructure" to which Mr. Krauthammer refers are part of the Palestinian society of the Occupied Territories and an attack on them constitutes an attack on Palestinians just as much as the shooting outside Israel's Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv and attacks on off-duty Israeli troops constitute attacks against Israelis. My characterization of their comments as demanding attacks against Palestinians was entirely accurate.

You don't accept that Mr. Kelly and Mr. Krauthammer advocate war crimes in the columns in question. They certainly did, and it is a pity that I have to explain how. Both you and they may be surprised to learn that the fact that what they are advocating is a massive assault aimed primarily at Palestinian police and Authority infrastructure does not mean that what they advocate are not war crimes. They are, as I shall demonstrate.

The central fact, and one which both of the columns in question and your letter to me all fail to acknowledge, is that Israel is the occupying Power in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This means that Israel's behavior in these areas is regulated by and must be judged according to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, as well as other elements of international law. Israel's status as the occupying Power in these areas has been reiterated on numerous occasions by the UN Security Council, most recently in Resolution 1322 adopted on October 7, 2000, which specifically calls on Israel to obey the terms of the Convention.

Article 4 of the Convention states that "Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals." Thus all members of the Palestinian Authority staff, the Palestinian police, members of other Palestinian political factions, and all other persons in the Occupied Territories who are not Israeli citizens are protected persons. Mr. Kelly and Mr. Krauthammer advocate measures which would constitute "grave breaches" of these protections, and hence, war crimes.

There is an absolute prohibition under the Convention of deportation of any protected person. Article 49 states that "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive." Article 147 specifically lists "unlawful deportation or transfer ... of a protected person" as one of the "grave breaches" of the Convention that states must punish by law. Article 85.5 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 specifically refers to grave breaches as "war crimes." Therefore, when Mr. Krauthammer calls on Israel to "strike and expel," he is advocating a war crime. When Mr. Kelly urges Israel to "destroy, kill, capture and expel the armed Palestinian forces," he too is advocating a war crime. It is as simple as that.

Indeed, according to Articles 146 and 147, Israel is bound by the Convention to arrest and try for war crimes any Israeli acting on Mr. Kelly and Mr. Krauthammer's advice to "expel" Palestinians from the Occupied Territories.

Lest anyone try to argue that the creation of the "Area A" quasi-autonomous zones in the Palestinian territories compromises the Convention's protections for Palestinians, armed or otherwise, please recall that Article 47 of the Convention specifies that "Protected persons who are in occupied territory shall not be deprived, in any case or in any manner whatsoever, of the benefits of the present Convention ... by any agreement concluded between the authorities of the occupied territories and the Occupying Power, nor by any annexation by the latter of the whole or part of the occupied territory."

In the past, whenever Israel expelled Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, even as few as three or four individuals, the UN Security Council quickly acted to pass resolutions denouncing these acts as serious violations of international law, including at least twelve resolutions from 1980-1992: res. 468 (1980), 469 (1980), 484 (1980), 605 (1987), 607 (1988), 608 (1988), 636 (1989), 641 (1989), 681 (1990), 694 (1991), 726 (1992) and 799 (1992). Mr. Kelly advocates the expulsion of "the armed Palestinian forces that have declared war on Israel." If, as it would appear, he means the entire 40,000 man Palestinian police force, which would surely resist any assault on Palestinian Authority ruled territory, as well as other Palestinians who may have weapons, this expulsion would probably even rise to the level of a crime against humanity. Mr. Krauthammer's more ambiguous formulation of "strike and expel" can only leave one wondering exactly how many Palestinians he thinks should be ethnically cleansed. At any rate, there is no question that, in advocating the expulsion of Palestinians by Israel, both of these columns have indeed encouraged and incited war crimes.

There are many other elements of both of these reprehensible and deeply irresponsible columns, and indeed Mr. Will's as well, that could well constitute incitement to war crimes, but I have made my case on this point irrefutably, so I shall not bother going through each and every one. Besides, my letter of August 16 made my views about the overall thrust of these columns quite clear, and I have no wish to repeat myself. However, I must emphasize that both of my principle concerns in that letter were indeed correct: that these columns advocated massive Israeli violence and war crimes against Palestinians, although in your response you did not seem to grasp that armed Palestinians are still both Palestinians and protected persons. I hope I have been able to clarify these points in this follow-up.

Once again I strongly urge you to consider establishing some minimal standards for your columnists, which certainly ought to include not allowing your page to become a forum for the repeated advocacy of war crimes.

I hope to hear from you soon regarding this important clarification of international law regarding what constitutes crimes of war, and what your columnists have, in fact, endorsed and incited.

Yours, Hussein Ibish Communications Director, ADC


Michael Kelly said that the intifada has been taking place "in Israel," rather than in territories under Israeli military occupation. This fiction is required to arrive at the conclusion that "the Palestinians are the aggressor," not Israel's army of invasion, conquest and occupation.

Instead of urging Israel to comply with international law and end the occupation, Mr. Kelly urges Israel to "go right ahead and escalate the violence" and "destroy, kill, capture and expel the armed Palestinian forces."

When Palestinians speak like this, the United States demands their arrest, and Israel sends its death squads to execute them. This is without doubt the most irresponsible column to have appeared in The Post in many years.

Communications Director
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Washington

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
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Washington, D.C. 20008, U.S.A.
Tel: (202) 244-2990, Fax: (202) 244-3196
E-mail: adc@adc.org
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