July 27, 2006
Re: Arbour Must Go, Alan Dershowitz, July 21.
Professor Dershowitz’s article criticizes Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and her warning that Israeli leaders in the present attack on Lebanon could have personal criminal responsibility where their actions constitute a “foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians.”
Dershowitz cites out-of-date examples of mass civilian deaths ordered by leaders of the past, e.g. Churchill and Truman. It is true there were no prosecutions for carpet bombing Dresden or the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, but international law has changed, and Churchill and Truman would not act the same way today. Arbour was right to give her warning, which incidentally refers to innocent killings not only in Lebanon, but in Israel as well.
Dershowitz’s shrill diatribe is reminiscent of other Dershowitz campaigns — defending O.J. Simpson and believing that torture is valid in certain cases. However, this one is much more dangerous because it is intended to remove the messenger for the future. Arbour, unlike Dershowitz, is a dedicated former Supreme Court judge and public servant who has prosecuted war criminals. The leaders in the present wars should realize that their questionable actions are now subject to review.
professor, McGill Law Faculty, Montreal.