Letter: Reactions to the massacre of Palestinians at Hebron

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The Independent Online
Sir: If, as Sarah Helm reports ('The slaughter of the innocents', 26 February) and eyewitnesses claim, Israeli soldiers did nothing to stop the massacre and afterwards were outside the mosque laughing and joking with Jewish teenagers, the case both for disarming Jewish settlers, and for providing international protection for the Palestinian population, is unanswerable.

Yet there will be plenty more killings, perpetrated by members of both communities unless international law is implemented. The Fourth Geneva Convention, accepted as applicable by every signatory except Israel, is absolutely categoric on this matter: 'The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies' (Article 49). The presence of each settler and settlement is therefore illegal.

Furthermore, Article 1 requires every signatory of the Convention 'to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances'. It is also a requirement that Protecting Powers are appointed to monitor the Convention's implementation on the ground (Article 9). Why have no Protecting Powers been appointed? Why have the US and Britain, to name but two, not put pressure on Israel to respect international law? Because ensuring Israel's respect for the convention contradicted the West's strategic interests (unlike Iraq/Kuwait where the West acted with such alacrity).

The permanent members of the Security Council must accept their share of responsiblity for what has happened, and if they have any intention at all of protecting Palestinian rights, regardless of the peace process, they must act now to ensure this vital piece of international law is upheld.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID McDOWALL

London, SW1

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