Interviewed by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said that European leaders concerned with Israel's slaughter of civilians in Lebanon have no right to preach the Jewish state. The article came soon after UN aid workers in Lebanon pointed out that Israeli bombing had all but made it impossible to deliver emergency aid to the more than 800,000 Lebanese displaced by Israel's attack against their country.
To support his argument, Olmert claimed that Europe's military had killed 10,000 civilians during the 1999 military intervention in Kosovo. Yet again, the Israeli leadership is demonstrating that it lives on a different planet from the rest of us, for the civilian casualties resulting from the NATO bombing were no more than 500 (see Human Rights Watch February 2000 report), and were overwhelmingly the result of U.S. bombing. Kenneth Roth, the executive director of HRW, rightly pointed out that "all too often, NATO targeting subjected the civilian population to unacceptable risks." And those 500 were killed over a 79-day period.
There is no question that the NATO bombing in Kosovo caused unacceptable damage in civilian lives and infrastructure, or that illegal weapons, such as cluster bombs (which Israel is also using in Lebanon), were utilized. But for the leader of a supposedly just, innocent and democratic state to use a precedent of atrocity—and to self-servingly inflate the real figure by twenty—belies a lack of moral foundation. We cannot use past war crimes to justify current and future ones, just as Israel should never be allowed to exploit the Holocaust only to create an Apartheid-like military occupation of 3 million Palestinians and the repeated aggression of a neighboring country. Otherwise the entire system of laws crumbles, and mass murders, ethnic cleansing and genocide will keep going until there isn't a single one of us left to lie to.
Better get your facts straight, Ehud.