Gaza shows Kosovo “doctrine” doesn’t apply

February 27, 2009

Protesters staged large demonstrations in Western capitals 10 years ago to urge governments to intervene to stop Serb forces killing civilians in Kosovo.Despite having no United Nations mandate, NATO went to war for the first time and bombed Serbia for 11 weeks to stop what it called the Yugoslav army’s disproportionate use of force in its offensive against separatist ethnic Albanian guerrillas.”We have a moral duty,” said then NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana as bombers took off on March 24, 1999 to “bring an end to the humanitarian catastrophe”.The intervention helped launch a doctrine of international “Responsibility to Protect” civilians in conflicts. Advocates of “R2P” proposed humanitarian intervention in Myanmar in 2007 and military force in Zimbabwe in 2008.But it never happened and the likelihood of this doctrine being adopted universally now in a UN declaration is slim, as was shown by the Gaza war that began two months ago.On Dec. 27, Israeli bombers went into action over Gaza. As reports of civilian deaths grew, protesters staged rallies in Western capitals to demand leaders act to end the offensive against Islamist Hamas militants in the Palestinian enclave.Critics accused Israel of using “disproportionate” force, just as many said Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic had done.But intervention in Gaza was impossible politically and militarily unimaginable. Unlike Serbia, Israel is not seen in the West as a rogue state and widescale ethnic cleansing was not under way in Gaza.Solana visited the enclave on Friday as foreign policy chief of the European Union, which seeks to foster peace in the Middle East through “soft power” — diplomacy and aid, not intervention of the kind he advocated as head of the NATO alliance.NATO never embraced the “responsibility to protect” concept, arguing that Kosovo, which most allies have subsequently recognised as an independent state, was a unique case that should not set a precedent.Soft power may eventually mean encouraging talks with Hamas — which is now shunned by the West. In an open letter published this week, a group of former foreign ministers urged a change in that policy, saying peace depends on talking to the militants.But with rockets from Gaza again being fired daily into Israel, the prospect of a breakthrough soon seems bleak as right-wing prime minister designate Benjamin Netanyahu tries to form a government.Viewing war damage in Gaza on Friday, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store spoke of “senseless destruction.” He blamed Hamas for starting the conflict, but said Israel’s response “goes beyond what international law allows.”Serb forces in the 1998-99 Kosovo war ignored the idea of  “proportionality” on the battlefield. They were sure no army would willingly tie its own hands in the face of insurgency. They mortared, burned and raided “guerrilla” villages to driveoff civilians and deprive the rebels of cover.On Thursday, the U.N. tribunal in The Hague sentenced two Serbian generals to 22 years in jail for war crimes in Kosovo. Serbia handed them over under Western pressure.Israel openly assured its soldiers during the Gaza offensive that they would not face such prosecution. Discussing tactics for a future conflict, one senior Israeli general also dismissed “proportionality” as a deterrent.”We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction,” said Northern Command chief Gadi Eisenkot.”This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has been authorised,” he told daily Yedioth Ahronoth ast October.Defending Israel’s action in Gaza, President Shimon Peres reminded NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer that NATO’s own bombing of Serbia killed “hundreds of civilians”.Prime Minister Ehud Olmert mocked the idea that he should ask soldiers to fight an evenly-matched battle in which a few hundred might be killed simply to win international approval for a war in which Hamas was fighting in heavily populated areas.But scholars of international law say proportionality does not mean a “fair fight” or balanced death toll, let alone making sure no civilian dies. It requires belligerents to use weapons that distinguish civilians from military targets and combatants.According to Gaza figures — which Israel says are suspect– some 600 of 1,300 Palestinians killed in Gaza were civilians. Of 13 Israelis killed during the 22-day war, 10 were soldiers.Human Rights Watch, the U.N. Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Israeli rights group B’Tselem have called for investigations.

30 comments

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NATO was using “disproportionate” force on Serbia. They bombed civilian targets for over 78 days killing hundreds of innocent people and nobody mentioned moral duties at that time. At least the Serb army was combatting soldiers when they were on the offensive. Little known fact at that time as well… the so called ‘liberation’ guerrillas were/are an internationally known terrorist group called the KLA.

Posted by Mike Sim | Report as abusive

The consequences of unauthorized, illegal NATO’s bombardment of Serbia will resonate in years to come. The phrase for Kosovo’s statehood as “unique case” made by Western powers can’t hold against international laws. The raising power and military partnership of Russia and China will probably have their own “unique cases”. Israel just did the same with Gaza. Who’s next on “unique case” war assembly line?

Posted by Bob Stevenson | Report as abusive

This just proves the hypocrisy of the USA and the West. Unbelievable. Innocent people are dieing and yet they persist on using “soft power” (and without talking to the enemy, what kind of soft power is that?). They (NATO), bomb Serbia killing innocent civilians for no reason. And for what? To stop a country from defending its land. If NATO is going to intervene in Serbia’s sovereignty, why not do it to Israel as well? The hypocrisy in today’s world is unbelievable.

Posted by Luka C. | Report as abusive

NATO along with the UN is just another usless organiation. comparing serbia and izrael is uncomparable. izrael is much worse, serbia didn’t create the world’s largest concentration camp they way izrael has. although serbs commited atrocities, at least they admitted to it and now are dealing with trying to recover from it. izrael makes pathehtic excuses and will do much worse.

Posted by sidney | Report as abusive

Funny how Serbs already invaded this blog to post comments about “illegal bombing” by NATO ect. just a day after the international court found Serbian Generals /government guilty of crimes against humanity including rapes, massacres against civilians and ethnic cleansing of indigenous Albanians.As it turns out, NATO was right, and Serbia was as the court said a ‘joint criminal enterprise’ and over 10,000 Albanian civilians were killed, 120,000 houses burned on purpose and some 800,000 Albanians forced out.

Posted by alban | Report as abusive

I am proud of NATO and western politics regarding Europe. Today we have no wars in Europen and many war criminals today are in jail.And I think that Serbia should not be jelous on Israel why they still kan kill civilians becouse that will newer happen in Europe again. And do not forget the consekvenses despitre that it is 10 years ago.

Posted by Erik | Report as abusive

Yeah, in the end accusations of human rights abuses are just tools in the chest of the hate mongers among our politicians.

Posted by Wim | Report as abusive

NATO did nothing wrong in the Kosovo war 98-99. What they did wrong was in the Bosnian war, in Srbrenica where 8.000 unarmed men and boys were massacred by orders from Belgrade, Serbia. And, who still today hide the most wanted war criminal Ratko Mladic who executed these orders. So tell me, what wrong did NATO do apart from stopping another massacre in the heart of Europe?

Posted by Sven Bengtsson | Report as abusive

“The Kosovo doctrine doesn’t apply”. Of course it doesn’t. Israel has one of the biggest Lobbying groups working in Washington today. It is unfathomable that the comparisons between Kosovo and Gaza will ever be subject to debate and legislation in US Congress. The US and Israel are in bed together. Israel has carte blanche regarding their policy towards the Palestinians. If only Serbia had thought of this. Serbia is to be respected for not “buying” the influence and power of USA and others to have on its side and help in justifying its actions.

Posted by DC | Report as abusive

the serbs did not even come close to responding the way the israelis did. lebanon was invaded over 1 solider and the gaza rockets being fired were like a sling shot fighting a tank. on the other had the albanian side had an organized army funded by drug money and the US, UK and German secret services. Before the nato bombs started to fall even the US state department agreed that the majority of the killings up to that point were done by the KLA Albanian fighters.

Posted by fernand | Report as abusive

to suggest that israel is engaging in systematic ethnic cleansing or intimating that it has created a concentration camp of its own, is to completely rewrite history. can someone please point me to the time in history when, in either case, the victims were offered a state of their own and civil rights greater than those offered by their own people, but, instead, decided to launch massive rocket attacks, purposely targeting innocent civilians? i must have missed that day in school.

Posted by emily | Report as abusive

To Alban:Before making claims of Serbs “invading” this article, take a look at the tags, and you might be surprised to find that Serbia is one of them. Serbs are welcome to read and comment on it. Secondly, it looks like only one Serb before me has commented, no need to instigate. Maybe you should open up to the idea that people outside of the Serbian culture have formulated opinions that differ from that of their politicians. Also, there are Albanians out there that do not agree with the actions of the KLA.One last point, genetic testing has determined that over 40% of the current population of the Balkans (Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia included) has been there for 30,000 years roughly. It’s only the slavic language/culture that was introduced that helped unify a very large unorganized even “barbaric” culture called the Illyrians. My point… stop with the whole “indigenous” claim and accept the idea that we’re all the same people, just speak different languages. The sooner we accept this the sooner we’ll be able to live with one another.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Double standards. If Israel is doing the killings, every one looks the other way, when some one else does it it is considered crime against humanity.Lets either treat everyone with the same law, or abolish the token UN org.

Posted by US Citizen | Report as abusive

Israel is the most evil society on Earth, it is a collection of Murderers, Financial Swindlers, and out right thieves. What can you justify the land jacking or great grand theft of all mankind time, a theft of a whole country called Palestine and rename it Israel, then start talking about morality please stop being funny. The Palestinian people still got the keys to their homes in the land where was stolen from them by the people who do not deserve to have it. The Jewish people invented the word Holocaust, and created it for the Palestinians to experience it, they created the word Concentration Camp, and got the Palestinian people to live in it. The only thing they do not have is gas champers because they still imagining them.

Posted by dan | Report as abusive

The use of the term “disproportionate” is extremely misleading. The term has a legal meaning in international law, in which it means force far in excess of what is needed to accomplish the military objective. To take out a sniper post in a building, you don’t flatten an entire town. “Disproportionate force” emphatically does NOT mean “a lot of force.”Neither Israelis and journalists are talking about true “disproportionate use of force,” because clearly, Israel used TOO LITTLE FORCE TO ACCOMPLISH ITS MILITARY OBJECTIVES, which included an end the rocket fire against Israeli civilians.

Posted by Zvi | Report as abusive

Hebrew and Arabic are Semetic languages. It should not be hard for one to extrapolate that both Jews and Arabs are Semites. Clearly any human catastrophe against Arab or Jew should be considered anti-semetic no matter who is responsible for such actions. One should also consider the political actions and culpability of Great Britain and the U.S. after World War II. The end result was pitting one semetic group against another in an effort to jockey for a better position in the unfolding cold war struggle. The human costs were out weighed by the military, political and economic concerns. Ultimately Israelis and Arabs have paid the real cost in the blood of their brothers and sisters. This is the cost of Empire.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

The Serb crackdown in Kosovo left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands internally displaced or as refugees in neighbouring states.Recently the Hague prosecution said the Serbian orchestrators sought the “modification of the ethnic balance in Kosovo in order to ensure continued Serbian control.”The Hague Tribunal is as proof of Serb regime’s culpability for the bloodshed in Kosovo.The destiny of some 2,000 Kosovars, which are considered as missing, is still unknown.Enormous crimes, crimes against humanity took place in Kosovo, in Bosnia, and Croatia.These crimes were committed by people who were leading the politics at that time, and even today in Belgrade!

Posted by Leon | Report as abusive

Kosovo is Serbia, and that gave the Serbian govt. every right to protect it’s land from the KLA.

Posted by John Frank | Report as abusive

To LeonI agree with you 100% Edmond Burke wrote “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” also “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” His comments 1770 still ring true in the modern world. Some people are still roaming free with impunity in Belgrade power corridors and I strongly believe for all the wounds to heal in all sides the detritus must be eradicated and the coming generations can one day I hope live together as neighbours under the EU banner.

Posted by Petrit | Report as abusive

David a.k.a Davic,The Illyrians like the way they live and there is nothing barbaric about Albania when her people of different religions live in perfect harmony. In the other hand, it is barbaric to brutally kill your own people while preaching religious fundamentalism like Serbs dealt with Bosnia, Croatian, Slovenia, and Kosovo. Why would Serbs slaughter and ethnically cleanse their own people!? Your point is ultimately wrong.To fernand a.k.a. fernandvic, fyi Kosovars were treated like slaves(not slavs) for centuries, forced to lived in an environment with deprived social, medical, education, and economic opportunities from their brothers (Serbs), just as blacks were before the civil war in US. God bless people the seek freedom and liberty and ultimately the USA.

Posted by Austin | Report as abusive

NATA was totally wrong in bombing Serbia. They did it because Serbia was leaning towards Russia. NATO (western world) never liked Russia and so they have come up with NATO. Yugoslavia was a unified country, but NATO did not want a strong country near their border. So they planned and instigated the Muslims to fight for a separate country. Saudi, Pakistan and other muslim countries sent their terrorist to help the Bosnian muslims. USA, UK supplied weapons and Saudi pumped in money. Just look at the number of Mosques which came up, which is a breeding ground for terrorist and hate towards religion.If they are so concerned about democracy, why are they supporting Pakistan, which never had a real democracy. They are supporting Dictators. Why don’t they go and help Burmese people? Because Burma does not have oil. Or are they scared of China.Why don’t they snap relations with Saudi, which has given refuge to Idi Amin ? Nicaragua was a favourite of USA inspite of Human rigths abuse. NATO is now above law and above UNO.

Posted by Raj | Report as abusive

As Americans, we have not ever seen our country bomb a sovereign country, as we did Serbia – a friend of the USA and protector of the Jews and Roma during WWII. This is their “reward” for being Christian Orthodox and having their own economy. God help our country – we seem to be on the side of the Euro-dictators.

If Arabs were serious about Palestine they would have recognized Kosovo. There is nothing more spineless than the Arab foreign policy.

Posted by Ruben | Report as abusive

Irene,What are you talking about. The Serbs did nothing to protect the Jews during the WWII.The Jews in the Balkans were saved by the Muslims, go figure. The Serbs fought the Nazis only when they saw that the Croats were getting the upper hand.And WWII had nothing to do with 1999. From your logic we would still treat Germany as if Hitler was in power.

Posted by Ruben | Report as abusive

Thirty years ago, the Israel state took part in my country, Guatemala, supporting the guatemalan army in our genocide, to crush the marxist insurgency. Here, died about 250,000 civilian people. Like others latinoamerican genocides, the guatemalan militaries responsibles of this mass killings are free, although the criminal prosecution has begun. Likewise, the jews military chiefs are sure of avoid the justice. USA is the main responsible for every barbaric actions, because its double standard and hipocresy. Otherwise, the latinoamerican and jews genocides were in jail, much time ago.

Posted by Luis Rodolfo Cabrera Juárez | Report as abusive

The doctrine would have applied if Kosovar leaderhsip rejected Serbia’s right to exist and claimed that all of Serbia + Kosovo is the only legitimate “Kosovo”. As Hamas claims about Israel…Israel, unlike Serbia for Kosovo, recognizes the principle of Palestinian statehood, the details are more complex. It is Hamas in Gaza, unlike Kosovo for Serbia, that doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist.Therefore, the comparison is completely wrong and misleading…

Posted by RS | Report as abusive

It never would be the international peace and justice until Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr.Blair will be severely punished for their crimes in Yugoslavia.It have to be the main political goal for every honest person in the world.

Posted by Iouli Andreev | Report as abusive

will someone please tell me what a proportionate response to terrorism is, and how it it figured? also, how does one distinguish between combatants and noncombatants when human shileds run to areas warned by israel of an impending bombardment? conditions are being imposed upon israel which no sovereign state in the eu, nato, or north america, would tolerate for itself.

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

To EmilyI agree with you in that having at least Gaza is better than what the Palestinians have been given by their brothers in previous decades. The Arabic countries never cared about the Palestinians, except when trying to put them out of the way. Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, as far as I know, nobody wanted them in their lands. And now they embrace their cause as if it had ever been theirs!You talk about double standards…People need to study History.

Posted by braz | Report as abusive

Those who equate the actions of Israel to Serbia are terribly misinformed.Israel allowed itself to be hit by rockets. It gave the whole world the opportunity to see what happened when Israel showed restraint.And then when Israel could hold back no more, it took the least military action possible. And it ceased it’s attacks once it was obvious that Hamas no longer had any will to fight. And now Gaza remains quiet and peaceful.People need to do some research on just what constitutes ‘genocide’ and ‘war crimes’. They need to actually look at Israel’s actions from an objective view. And they need to look at exactly why NATO intervened in Kosovo, and what crimes were committed by Serbia to justify the intervention.Until they do that, protestors make a mockery of human rights with their anti-israel stance.By politicising human rights terminology and using it when it does not apply, the terms are twisted until they mean nothing. And human rights as a whole suffers.

Posted by haha | Report as abusive