But … you talk like war crimes are a bad thing.

I was listening to the ten o’clock news with half an ear and I caught Jeremy Bowen saying something like if Israel can’t prove that bombing the bridges in Lebanon was justified “then it’s a war crime.”

I don’t get it, BBC. So what if it is. Why do you care?

Note, I’m not asking why you, the readers of this site, might care – or you, the BBC audience, or you the Lebanese or you the Israelis or you the Palestinians or you the world. You all might have many and different opinions on whether it’s a war crime in law, or whether it’s a war crime in the sight of God – but I’m not asking you.

I’m talking to you, the British Broadcasting Corporation. When Hamas and then Hizbollah attacked Israel you never troubled to tell us the legal status of the acts. When suicide bombers killed Israelis at pizza parlours and bar mitzvahs you never gave us any of this war crime schtick, although attacks targeted at non-combatants are the epitome of a war crime. “Terrorist” is a term with meaning in international law, yet when bombers murdered your own countrymen in London a year ago you were so anxious to avoid being judgemental that you had someone go through what your reporters had written in the heat and pity of the moment, carefully replacing the word “terrorist” with the word “bomber.”

(God, what a shameful job. While they were still scrubbing the blood off the streets and the rails, some hack was scrubbing out any suggestion that the killers might have been bad people. Was it a junior hack under orders or a senior hack doing his own dirty work? Or were you all sent slinking back to your desks each to expunge his own words? I’d really like to know, but whichever it was you were anxious to avoid any talk of “crimes” then.)

“Bomber” not “terrorist”: by your own account your only job is to describe projectiles hitting meat. So what’s up now, with your “war crimes” and your “Israel kills Lebanese civilians”? You don’t need these fancy legal concepts, as if it mattered to you whether they were civilians or not. By your own stated standards moral distinctions between killings are “a barrier rather than an aid to understanding.”

I just don’t get it.

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